sisterhoodispowerful

Radical Feminist Resistance

Reclaim The March! Statement from Radical Feminists on what occurred at London Reclaim The Night 2014

November 24, 2014

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What happened when radical feminists raised awareness of male transgender violence at the London Reclaim the Night, 2014:

Note: The London Reclaim the Night March claims to be women-only, whilst also stating on its website that  ‘trans women’ (sic) are welcome.

A group of radical feminists, all of whom have attended RTN for many years, and several of whom have been involved in organising women’s marches, attended the London 2014 RTN to assert the right of women to organise autonomously and to raise awareness of violence perpetrated by male transgenders. They carried a banner stating ‘Reclaim the March: Reclaim the Night is for WOMEN’ and placards highlighting the need for women’s services to remain women-only. Some of the group distributed flyers giving factual information about violence perpetrated by male transgenders, and highlighting why it is vital that women’s services and women’s marches remain women-only.

While on the march:

- a radical feminist was approached by three hostile women who tried to snatch her leaflets away and the police had to intervene for her safety.

- the radical feminists were met with considerable hostility and antipathy from trans supporters

At the rally following the march:

- the compere opened the rally by emphatically distancing the organisers from the radical feminist group, stating that there was only one official RTN leaflet, and that they were not responsible for any other leaflets being given out on the march. In our recollection, this is unprecedented at any London RTN. She then proceeded to stress that ‘transwomen’ (sic) are welcome at RTN, and that any other sentiments did not reflect the policy of the organisers. This was met with hearty applause and a strong sense of disapproval of the radical feminist presence and message. The compere also then advised anyone who had experienced harassment or felt intimidated as a result of the leaflets to inform a steward or police officer: the imputation of this statement was that the radical feminists had been harassing and intimidatory. This was a gross misrepresentation of what had happened, since none of the radical feminists had harassed anybody, and in fact it was one of them who had been harassed and intimidated. The radical feminist group pointed this out but were ignored. The compere’s tone conveyed a sense of apology for and disowning of the radical feminist presence on the march: one of the radical feminists objected to this, but was ignored.

- later at the rally, one of the radical feminists vocally protested the double standards of one of the speeches, which condemned some forms of male violence while failing to acknowledge the realities of violence perpetrated by male transgenders, or to challenge the condemnation of those who had called attention to these realities on the march.

Our thoughts on what happened:

The support for transgenderism and antipathy towards radical feminists at a march that is purportedly against male violence against women is extremely disturbing. We believe this testifies to a lack of understanding amongst feminist communities of the harms of transgenderism and a reluctance to acknowledge the realities of violence perpetrated by male transgenders, even though these are well-documented. We also believe it testifies to a fear around speaking out. While there were women at the rally who were privately supportive of radical feminists taking a stance on transgenderism, these women remained silent in the public arena – no doubt due to the climate of fear around this issue, and the extreme hostility that meets any woman who is vocal about it.

Over the years, many leaflets have been handed out at RTN marches. Some of these have been supportive of the exploitation and abuse of women in prostitution. We note that our leaflet is the only one to have been singled out and publicly denounced by a representative of RTN. We find it strange that women who support prostitution and the sex industry are not met with such hostility, and are allowed to march and attend the event unhindered, when sex purchase is violence against women. We also note that there is a strong line of consistency between the pimp lobby, the porn lobby and the trans lobby.

The silencing of women speaking out against the harms of transgenderism and male transgender violence cannot continue. We need more courageous actions like those in evidence at the London 2014 RTN. And we look forward to support from our sisters.

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[Read more about this action here: http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/breaking-news-reclaim-the-night-london-2014/

WOMEN-ONLY SPACE DISCUSSIONS AT A FEMINIST GATHERING: A RADICAL FEMINIST ACCOUNT

Some women have been gathering together for 3 years at a UK event called ‘North East Feminist Gathering’. Previously, the agenda seemed quite clearly centred on women’s liberation. This year, there was a turning off course where, as with other ‘feminist’ conferences and gatherings, anti-feminist rhetoric is mistaken for feminism. A failure to name male supremacy and, instead, promote anti-feminist ‘queer’ politics was an underlying theme. Some radical feminists, having enjoyed the women-only event previously, decided to go anyway to ensure that radical feminism was not marginalised and misrepresented.

A few days after the gathering an anti-radical feminist account was put out in public on tumblr. One radical feminist attendee gave a different version. As a radical feminist, it is my aim to ensure radical feminism is better understood. For that reason, I am publishing her account (with permission of course).

There were two workshops held which are important to radical feminists, politically. These were: ‘why women-only space is important ‘and ‘trans-inclusivity in women-only spaces’. ‘Women-only space’ is at the heart of radical feminism. We cannot fight for our freedom with our oppressors in the room. See, for example: http://www.feminist-reprise.org/docs/support.htm

The radical feminist position is often misrepresented in hostile environments. Radical feminists did not make a coherent decision to go to these workshops. FACT. Many of us turned up feeling that we needed to do so, not knowing others were going. Women-only space is important to us; of course we are going to go where the debate is. I attended on my own. Others decided not to go at all.

The only account out in public about this event was written by 1 of 4 members of the Newcastle university ‘feminist’ society. This society on facebook is very queer-identified. Queer theory upholds, and reinforces, ‘gender’ and radical feminism seeks to abolish it. ‘Gender’ is a socially constructed vehicle designed to ensure women’s subordination under male supremacy. There is a clash of beliefs. The women’s account is a total exaggeration and misrepresentation.

In the first workshop, a radical feminist did walk out of the workshop.  She raised her voice generally in the room, not directed at the mbt person whose behaviour had distressed her. She said: ‘I’m going outside for a fag. I can’t stay in this workshop and watch a young, black woman be spoken over’. Radical feminists believe that those who are male-born are conditioned to accept, and expect, male privilege as members of the dominating caste. The young black woman herself did not feel personally silenced. There are issues about whether it is appropriate for those with one structural oppression to get angry, and speak on behalf of, a member of another oppressed group. That is not peculiar to radical feminism. In fact, it’s far more common among queers who operate on the individualistic level almost entirely.

There were non-radical feminists in the workshop who said during the discussion that they felt uncomfortable in relation to transgenderism and yet didn’t feel able to critique it. They felt able to say this with the language radical feminism gives and because they were in a space where it was allowed to be said alongside other views. FACT.

At the beginning of the second workshop, the transactivists present said they would not be offended by anything said. The transactivist facilitators were polite and facilitated well. They wanted honest dialogue. They invited honest conversations. They did not insist on pronouns. They said they would not be offended by that. Generally, the workshop was not heated.

I am afraid this is more propaganda from trans allies this time as opposed to transactivists themselves. Their understanding of feminism was limited. Many younger women told us that they are frightened to question the trans issue but that they are uncomfortable with it. FACT. I did refer to one mbt as ’he’. That was in the context of what the transactivists had said at the beginning.  No one said anything at the time. I usually try to use names but sometimes it’s impossible and I am not giving up. My reality. I get called a ‘lady’ and no one bothers that that offends me.

The main challenge in the second workshop was by a young woman. She said she is not a radical feminist. The workshop undertook some group work. The question posed was how should trans inclusivity sit within feminism. Of course, some of us said it did not. The workshop was presented by the facilitators as an open dialogue and so we expressed our views. The women who were most anti criticism of transgenderism were not making feminist arguments. Queer theory has leached on to a variety of ideologies and de-radicalised them. Those espousing queer theory will, nonetheless, argue that that’s not what they are doing.

I believe anti-radical feminists are trying to use a feminist conference to undermine and attack radical feminism. Some radical feminists believe we should only organise separately. I believe we should do that and be involved in the conversation. I hope that some women will now be open to radical feminist views as a result. When they met us, they were pleasantly surprised and interested in a critique of transgenderism from a radical feminist perspective. Some women have not got the language to express what they instinctively feel – that there’s no such thing as a ‘female brain’, for example.

In the anti-radical feminist account (which we are not linking here), the author states: “I felt just as unsafe as I would have in a room full of angry, misogynistic men.” Really? I don’t think so. Angry, misogynist men use violent and threatening imagery and, perhaps, real threats aimed at women. There were no threats aimed at anyone in that room. There were powerful emotions. Political disagreement becomes ‘putting other women down’ in this individualistic world of queer theory where everyone must feel ‘safe’ except radical feminists. Survivors of male violence find the misuse of the words ‘safe space’ offensive. It means a safe space from being, or feeling, threatened, personally, by those with structural power.

Some of us have been talking about the use of the word ‘unsafe’. Political debate has to have an ‘edge’ and certain robustness since challenge is essential. There are, of course, debates to be had about the most effective ways to challenge someone or a situation. What feminists can’t do is allow the concept of ‘safe space’ to silence differing political viewpoints. At no point were the ground rules, agreed at the beginning of the event, said to be broken or called in during either workshop. It is true only two slides were shown during the ‘trans inclusivity’ workshop. Some radical feminists thanked the transactivist facilitators. Some talked about having a day’s conference so that the entire debate could be out in the open – both sides of it.

Four women. I repeat FOUR women are now misrepresenting the whole experience. The account by the women involved in the Newcastle ‘feminist’ society is ageist in places. Some women who were vocally critical of transgenderism were younger and didn’t identify as radical feminist. They were speaking with their hearts and instincts. In feedback, I represented a view that unrelated women felt unable to explore their true feelings without being labelled ‘transphobic’. Women in that small group stated that they were happy for me to represent their views in this way. These women were not ‘middle-aged’ either. Many younger women have expressed a viewpoint that it is ageist to dismiss critical views of transgenderism based on age. Criticisms exist about transgenderism from women of all ages.” 

NB: the account of the radical feminist walking out has been changed following feedback from other radical feminists present

FURTHER INFORMATION

The transactivists who ran the workshop had this to say:

Emma and I (Tara) would like to thank everyone who attended our workshop today regarding Trans Inclusion. It was an emotionally charged session, but worthwhile dialogue was opened on this contentious issue.”

Their opinion backs up the radical feminist account published on this blog, rather than the tumblr ‘horrific gathering’ viewpoint.

You can read their comment yourselves on face book public page:   

http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=847503168623832&id=467168359990650

‘Phobia’ finger pointing: it’s the new misogyny

There is a new danger to women. And feminists are on it. We’re naming it. We’re angry. And we WILL fight back.

It doesn’t matter what kind of politics a feminist has, unless she is fully accommodating to men (in the shape of anti-feminist, queer gobbledygook and other woman-haters) she will be attacked. Attempts will be made to silence her through a systematic campaign of hatred and intimidation.

Many feminists receive threats of violence simply because they are individuals who have made pro-women statements and carried out pro-women actions. See just one example:

http://www.standard.net/Police/2014/10/14/Utah-State-University-student-threatens-act-of-terror-if-feminist.html

There has been a recent bout of attempts to stop individual feminists from speaking at events. The chosen method is to call someone ‘phobic’. You can put any word you want in front of it. It doesn’t have to be a real word, you can just make it up. In circulation, we currently have: biphobic, transphobic, whorephobic, lesbians who are somehow ‘homophobic’ (will leave you to work that one out, I can’t) etc. When questioned, we’re told that the person knows this is what we are because they ‘feel’ it, they have ‘experienced’ it. It’s not possible to ‘experience’ or ‘feel’ an undefined made-up word so we’ve got a problem before we start. Words mean something.

In the distant past, we used to say that we rejected the term ‘lesbophobia’ because we felt men should fear us and our political analysis about male surpremacy. Well, that’s turning out to be true. The weapon of choice is made-up words which others take seriously. Who knew.

Deborah Cameron does a thorough, good, job of explaining that the constant use of something-phobia is meaningless because it implies oppression is driven by a psychological problem; a condition which gives rise to hatred. Although sometimes oppression is about hatred, it is always about power. A radical feminist analysis always involves where the power lies and why it is being used:

http://www.troubleandstrife.org/new-articles/minding-our-language/

Oppression is about power enshrined in structures and institutions as well as in attitudes and societal assumptions. It’s not about isolated insults or ideological differences which may result in questioning the way someone lives their life. Here is an example: Bisexual people are not structurally oppressed. Lesbian feminists accused of ‘biphobia’ do not have structural power over bisexual women. Bisexual women may be receiving the rewards of compliance which accompany compulsory heterosexuality – these are financial, societal approval for conforming and various other benefits (het women are also oppressed under comp het – it’s a complex system of rewards and punishments). Women who are ‘out’ lesbians (as opposed to those who ‘feel’ lesbian but are intimately entangled in comp het) are not.

When/if bisexual people face oppression it’s because they are perceived to be lesbian or a gay male or, possibly, gender non-conforming. Structural oppression, as it relates to sexuality, is about the way compulsory heterosexuality is imposed on women, from birth. The purpose is to enforce male domination. It’s nothing to do with someone’s feelings, about bisexual jokes or assumptions made about bisexual people. Any other analysis is bullshit individualism and has a libertarian agenda. That has no part to play in feminism – feminism is about the liberation of women, as a caste. It’s not humanism, it’s not about all other oppressions. It’s an unrelenting fight for women’s freedom.

That’s not to say that, as feminist activists, we should not take into account other oppressions; we may share other oppressions and we may be fighting other injustices alongside our feminism. However, losing focus on the liberation of women within feminism leads to humanist murkiness where women’s concerns, as always, is everyone else but our own caste. We are conditioned to put the needs of others before ourselves. Queer ‘phobic’ smoke-screens play right into that. Women, especially ‘feminists’ who have liberal notions of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ for everyone, end up fighting for the wrong team and against their own liberation. The reason liberal feminists lose focus is because they don’t recognise the importance of power in a political context. Power is more than the power of one individual. Power is about which group of people (men as a caste) control what social, financial and other resources and why. I really don’t know why we have to keep repeating this to brainwashed women on the left. But we do.

Never has this been more obvious than the recent spat of ‘feminist’ university societies targeting individual feminists. They have worked with male supremacists (whether visibly and consciously so or not) to silence both long-standing and newly emerging feminists. Having a critique, or, even better, a political analysis about why women’s liberation leads to gender abolition, is enough to get labelled one phobia or another. The mere use of the word ‘phobia’ gets ‘feminists’, and their anti-feminist allies, worked up into a frenzy and demand no-platforming of women who have something to say about male violence. It doesn’t even make logical sense half the time.

It’s surely the witch hunts of centuries past, all over again. The lack of analysis is very telling. Julie Bindel was simply called ‘vile’ by the NUS. Very mature. Over and over students admitted they had not read her work but something-something-‘phobia’. Caroline Criado-Perez has recently received the vague accusation of being a ‘damaging and exclusionary figure’ followed by an unsubstantiated but emotive ‘we urge you to distance yourself’.

You can read the sorry state of affairs here:

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Feminist-campaigner-Caroline-Criado-Perez-branded/story-23448206-detail/story.html#comments

Am I right to see a hint of a threat there? – ‘distance yourself, single-out and ostracise this individual or we will cause trouble’. It’s a threat feminists are beginning to get used to. It comes from MPAs (Male Privileged Agitators) and queer folk alike. These types of accusations against feminists (who are, importantly, from across the whole political feminist spectrum) serve only to make women obedient to the male supremacist agenda

The mission to train feminists into being submissive, obedient, silent women goes like this: Don’t ever allow yourself to be called ‘phobic’ or else bad things will happen to you. Not to women. To you, personally. You will suffer and be punished if you express radical politics. When you’re challenging, for example, the billion dollar sex industry, you may be called ‘whorephobic’ (sic) and accused of hating prostituted women. And, if that happens, it’s not just a word with ‘phobia’ at the end, it has the power to set a stream of hatred and no-platforming your way. It has the power to disrupt your political convictions, your career. It enables some to justify terrifying threats of violence from misogynists towards you. Threats which often stem from the targeting of individual feminists as ‘bigots’ or something-phobic. No woman is safe from this mission. Liberal feminists might as well throw in the towel and develop a better understanding of radical feminism because male-appeasement won’t save you.

Our ‘choices’ are limited. We keep quiet, we go anonymous and hope we’re not doxxed (by anti-feminists or ‘feminists’ who knows?) or we speak our mind under our real name knowing that years of intimidation and harassment lie ahead. The pattern of thinking for the Obedient Woman goes something like this: ‘We avoid any kind of ‘phobia’ (sic) at any costs – but see those women over there? They’re bigots and should be silenced. I am, of course, a good ally of yours, how could you think I am not? Hey you over there! BIGOT! TRANSPHOBE!”. Don’t believe me? Unless you put men first every second of every moment in your political thinking or agree with queer bull-shit and acquiesce that to do so is more important than women’s liberation, I guarantee you, you’ll be on the list in no time.

Individual feminists with their real names out there are brave women. It is typical for individual feminists to receive death threats, rape threats, and a variety of other implied threats. On top of that, those same women face being singled out for no-platforming with massive campaigns of hate based on misinformation and assumptions. Those women deserve my, our, unconditional support as individuals, even if we don’t always share the same political agenda. The toll on women’s mental health cannot be under-estimated. I have heard some horrendous accounts of the impact it has had on women. I have felt it myself. We all do. Some, however, bear more of the brunt of it than others.

These intimidatory attacks are succeeding in preventing individual feminists from speaking in malestream public as well as women-only meetings. The male supremacist plan to silence feminists is working swimmingly – it’s morphed into an ‘own’ goal, attacking feminists and feminism from within. Call anti-feminist rhetoric ‘feminist’ and feminist analysis something-phobic and you’ve managed to reverse the whole situation. Well done, patriarchy!

However, as always, male supremacy under-estimates the fire in our bellies. The rage that we feel when we observe women’s caste systematically murdered, raped, abused, intimidated and harassed. All women. Everywhere. And, for their, and our, sakes, we can, and must, fight back.

And fight back, we will.

#feministsfightback

I can be found on twitter @rubyfruit2

CONFERENCE FEMINISM

I want to be part of a revolution. A revolution which will transform the lives of all females. Women are being murdered, abused, silenced, controlled on a daily basis. To be part of a revolutionary fight, we need to know each other in times of risks and danger. We need to trust each other. We need to know that sisters will not lie, manipulate or otherwise, misrepresent the feminist, or radical feminist, position. We need to know that those we work with have politics and ethics.

I have had concerns about conferences becoming the main focus for feminist organising, and the limitations of that, for over a year. The problem is getting worse, not better, so I decided to write about it. My concerns centre around how the conference format, in isolation, de-radicalises feminism.

Corporate ‘feminism’ understands this too well. It is a deliberate ploy for capitalist-patriarchy to exploit women’s desire to enjoy women-only space. It focuses on the richest, and most successful, women and provides corporate sponsorship, recognising the potential for profit in big numbers of women coming together. These two links show a general contemporary increase in women’s conferences. Collectively, they highlight how rich women can come together in expensive spaces, attract corporate sponsors, and chat about ‘empowering’ women already greatly more advantaged than most.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/06/business/media/womens-conferences-become-a-growing-media-marketing-tool.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSectionSum&module=pocket-region&region=pocket-region&WT.nav=pocket-region&_r=1

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/05/19/the_business_of_feminism_star_studded_women_s_conferences_empower_the_powerful.html

One of the women quoted in the article below says: “It’s almost become a competition, like: ‘Did you go to that conference? Well what about that one?’ And maybe you don’t even want to go, but now you have to because you’re afraid of what you’ll miss out on if you don’t.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/fashion/how-womens-conferences-can-be-a-business.html

This woman describes her discomfort at going to a women’s corporate event (which was sponsored by AOL and a skin-care product (don’t let that irony escape you).

http://www.vice.com/read/the-makers-conference-corporate-americas-view-of-the-future-of-feminism

There were big names who didn’t know why they were there in the spotlight. They faltered and stumbled over their words, admitting they didn’t write them. We can see from the photos how the performance of ‘femininity’, and its re-enforcement, was played out during these ‘empowering’ and ‘inspiring’ times

We might have hoped that this author and reluctant attendee was present out of some kind of feminist conviction. And yet even she confesses: “In the interest of full disclosure, I should say the primary reason I attended the conference was because I was promised face time with Steinem.”

Julie Bindel speaks well here about the dangers of ‘fun feminism’. She argues that women coming together on liberal agendas do so to focus on personal liberty and freedom. This is not the same as the radical feminist goal of overthrowing male supremacy.

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/08/fun-feminism-women-feminist

However, she does not make the links between ‘fun feminism’ and the phenomenon described in the articles above where the conference format is used to sell Neoliberalism back to women via corporate sponsorship and the cult of the woman celebrity. In other words, the conference format, reinforces patriarchal-capitalist ideals hiding behind the rhetoric of women’s ‘empowerment’.

I know what you may be thinking. If a conference is explicitly called ‘feminist’ or ‘radical feminist’ it won’t have a corporate agenda. The problem is, it has no choice. We live in capitalist-patriarchy. In order to book a venue with high numbers, women have to be charged a reasonably high amount. In order to get away with charging a high amount, many conferences have fallen into the trap of inviting ‘big names’ to attract the numbers needed. Some of these ‘big names’ don’t even share the politics around which the conference is being organised (examples described above in the articles about more malestream conferences are not so far from experiences I have seen or had described to me). I get the feeling some women are invited simply because they’re controversial. This is instead of rather than (or perhaps as well as) because they have something to contribute to the political goals of that particular conference (should there be any above attracting large numbers).

And if you need to aim for large numbers because your venue and other costs are expensive, you will need a lot of women present to break even, and, even more, to make a profit. This idea is fraught with political dangers. Some conferences capitulate completely and allow men, perhaps, even anti-feminist or violently dangerous men (how can we tell?) to be present. Men can usually be relied upon to boost numbers and revenue – they do, after all, earn £1 for every 80 pence women earn in the UK. Others, fearing that they might be boycotted and not get the numbers they need and/or have venues pull out, have compromised with queer bullshit and held sessions on a series of made-up phobias as opposed to feminism. By a process of needing to be popular, large conferences can end up being de-radicalised, with the conscious or unconscious approval of the organisers.

It doesn’t have to be like this. By far, my favourite feminist conference in recent years, still, is ‘radfem2012′ and I remember thinking ‘wow. Radical feminist, thought-provoking, speakers over 2 days for a real value-for-money event.’ £15 compared to the price of some women’s conferences reaching into their hundreds of pounds shows it is possible to be mindful of price. Although, on top of an entry fee, many women have accommodation, travel and other costs. If someone has domestic commitments or is disabled on top, these are added barriers. There are various barriers to individuals reaching conferences. Those barriers don’t, of course, just apply to feminist conferences. The point is if conferences become the main way in which women can work towards feminist goals then it becomes problematic as a method of political organising

One of the biggest dangers around today is that conference organisers will be intimidated from within, or externally, to cave in and accommodate the all-pervasive queer agenda. As a radical feminist I believe that agenda is libertarian, regressive, anti-feminist rhetoric. I believe the true queer agenda is masked behind rhetoric. The true agenda is to uphold ‘gender’ at the expense of women’s liberation. In recent times, it has shown it is more dangerous than merely being a string of words which make no sense. Those string of words are being used, in an ironic reversal, to shut down actual feminists in favour of anti-feminist propaganda . Silencing techniques are disguised as some kind of championing of humanist rights to confuse and mystify everyone. I am all for championing human rights of oppressed people, by the way – just not at the expense of a (radical) feminist movement losing touch with its goal of women’s liberation.

Conferences have had a place – and may continue to have a place for the right reasons and in the right hands. Some involved in the movement pretend that it is possible to have ‘international’ conferences, or, even more grandly, ‘summits’ or a ‘taskforce’ (a patriarchal term if ever I heard one). One or two rich people might make it across the other side of the world but revolution starts at home. Revolution starts on our own door-step. It starts with ourselves and the women around us. It starts with developing a political understanding about our lives. It starts with CR (Consciousness-raising). It does not start with controversial speeches and rhetoric and meeting someone famous. If it does, then that is not the right starting point. Rhetoric without CR can lead to anti-feminist behaviour mingling with feminist theory. What a head fuck that one is.

Without a doubt, some conferences can radicalise some women. They learn the joy of women-only compared to male dominated spaces. They might learn that (for example) radical feminism is being lied about; radical feminist truths are being masked in favour of ones which support male supremacy. They may learn it’s possible for women to fight back. But without the groundwork of ongoing activism, meeting once a year (or more) to listen to ‘celebrities’ speak does not a revolution make. There is a patriarchal tendency to adopt an academic style of conference with ‘plenaries’ and ‘experts’. Even that, potentially, has a place so long as women have a chance to learn how to trust each other and work together. Conferences are usually too big to achieve that and so they often end up with women who don’t know each other making suggestions about the way forward. Anyone who has ever been a grass-roots activist knows that does not work. We need to connect in small groups and we need to work on specific goals to ignite real flames which will stay alight for more than a heady, passionate day or two.

I am aware, even as I write, that it’s a lot of work to organise a conference. I have done it myself so I know. I also know that radical feminist conferences with integrity, and even those labelled ‘feminist’, are fraught with danger. Women organisers and attendees are at risk from misogynists. Threats and no-platforming are the order of the day. This article is not to diss those women organisers – some of whom are my friends and political allies. But I am not here to protect friendships. I am here for a revolution and I can only work with others who want a revolution too. Women who can recognise that there’s more to a revolution than rhetoric and hype.

I am glad women are having fun together, I really am. I am glad that conferences can help alleviate the isolation we feel because we hold radical feminist politics (or even half-way decent feminist politics, these days). That’s not revolutionary though. Being revolutionary is planning an over-throw of systems which oppress women. Being revolutionary is having clear goals and projects with the aim of liberating women. Being revolutionary is coming up with practical ways to support women to break free from patriarchy as far as we possibly can. Being revolutionary is offering alternatives to patriarchy, ways of escaping the worst of it.

Conscious that every single woman who’s ever organised a conference in her life (that will be me then!) may feel defensive in response to this post, I want to temper it (and also illustrate my arguments are political) with another post I have written alongside it (soon to be published) supporting all feminists who are under such a barrage of personal intimidation and threats.

There are many of us who are working towards an alternative to conference-itis. We believe you don’t need hundreds of women to spark a revolution. Our igniter is at the ready.

NB: I am conscious that there have been some feminist conferences recently and that others are coming up. The purpose of this post is to at least open the debate and name the conference format as a political choice, not to encourage defensiveness from particular individuals who may have spent months working on conference organising (as, incidentally, have I which is a main reason for my post).

THE 21st CENTURY BACKLASH AGAINST FEMINISTS IN PUBLIC SPACES

In landmark UK cases, successful criminal prosecutions have taken place against those who menacingly threatened feminists on the internet for daring to have an opinion and expressing it in the public domain. Today, a man was jailed for 18 weeks for making violent threats: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-29411031

 

Social media has become male supremacy’s modern way of finding witches; the women who won’t conform, the women who speak out and try and help other women. The feminists of today. It’s absolutely no coincidence that today’s convicted abuser referred to  ‘witches’ and used the violent imagery of drowning.

 

Both women involved powerfully describe how they feel on the day the sentence is known:

 

http://weekwoman.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/a-brief-comment-on-peter-nunn/

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11127782/Stella-Creasy-Twitter-

 

Their success in getting as far as prosecutions, let alone convictions, is incredible in a world where attacks on women are trivialised, dismissed and deliberately ignored. The success means that ALL feminists are a step closer to being able to express our opinions in public spaces without being subsequently personally threatened with violence and harassment.

 

As is made horrifically clear from Caroline’s account, this man didn’t ‘just’ send menacing tweets (that’s enough by itself), he systematically terrorized her. “I felt he was a clear and present threat to me. He made me scared to go outside, to appear in public. He seemed obsessed enough to carry out his threats.” (quote from first link)

 

Just as I was feeling proud of these brave sisters and their strong words, I glanced down at the comments section of the Telegraph (second link containing an article by Stella Creasy). There, was a cesspit of misogyny and stereotypes about women and our motives for daring to speak in the public domain alongside men and daring to say we have a right to do this without harassment.

 

Even in the face of successful convictions, men cluster around the individual women. The male commentators reinforce, over and over, that feminists expressing their right to be unintimidated in public spaces, will be punished. Punished by character assassinations and punished by anonymous male supremacists dismantling the seriousness of their lived experiences.

 

Feminism has long recognised the importance of the public/private split in the way women, as a caste, are controlled. In days gone by, it was more obvious that men viewed women speaking in the public domain as a direct threat to patriarchy. The domestic/private domain has been set aside for us so we can carry out unpaid labour and serve men. Only until relatively recently have we been allowed to be politicians at all. There aren’t many of us and what we wear, say and do, are scrutinized according to socially constructed standards of ‘femininity’ in a way male counterparts are absolutely not. This undermines any positions of power women hold, even if, by some miracle, we get there in the first place.

 

These comments running alongside the article are a continuum of men’s past historical attempts to silence us in public spaces. Attempts which began centuries ago. Attempts which morph into new shapes as quickly as changes to popular forms of cultural communication manifest themselves.  By targeting feminists, like witches before us, all women are taught a lesson. “STFU and you will be rewarded with scraps from our table. If you don’t,  we will come for you next. Be compliant and support men’s position of superiority or the anger and the tyranny will be directed at YOU.” This is an overtly deliberate silencing tactic of individual ‘uppity’ women.

 

The absolute anger and hatred male posters have for these women is plain for all feminists to read in the comments section of the article.  The women’s temerity for daring to say they have the right not to be abused outrages patriarchs. They mill together, using male supremacist tactics, to get us out of public spaces and back into the private domain. Many feminists have been driven off the internet by being doxxed, harassed and abused. It’s OK if we’re in public spaces and support men. That’s fine. To be expected. Plenty of women around willing to do that for the scraps off the table. It’s the women who are in public spaces talking about women’s rights who are real threats. However mildly, however ‘respectfully’, we frame our resistance, men will lash out (Emma Watson, taunted with anonymous men revealing her naked photos – public humiliation and shame, for example). We are a threat to patriarchy’s social order.  The witches of the 21st century. In the internet world where anyone can say anything, women can name our truths under patriarchy in a way we could never have done before. We have the potential to reach out to millions of other women. We have to be silenced and discredited any time any of us gains any ground. We are dangerous.

 

No wonder the comments on the Telegraph story are coming quick and fast like someone rushing to put a cork back on a bottle before all the wine spills out. The overwhelming message underpinning the comments, said boringly in hundreds of different ways, is: ‘if you can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen’ an ironic reversal by which men mean ‘get out of public discourse’. One even stated that he thought Stella Creasy is ‘in the wrong career’ if she couldn’t just brush off a physically violent threat or two. Popular forms of the argument among the comments were: it’s just the internet, don’t take it seriously, you’ve brought it on yourself by being on the same social media as the abusers (oh where have we heard THAT one before?), feminists are getting special treatment and no one ever says anything about the well-known violence from radical feminists towards…well, anyone they can think of really. They don’t let facts get in their way.

 

As I was reading these comments, I was reminded of my own experience on the internet when I spent a few years on a male-dominated gay site, soaking up the same levels of misogyny and having it all pouring out at me constantly. I wrote about it a couple of years ago:

http://sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/internet-misogyny-how-online-patriarchy-operates/

 

The personal attacks just flow and flow. For not acting as men act, for not having the same understandings about threats which men have because we have different lived experiences in relation to male violence, we are constantly found to have numerous character flaws. Uncoincidentally, those ‘character flaws” all happen to be criticisms men typically make of women. We’re ‘attention seeking’, drama queens’, have ‘no self awareness’, are ‘passive-aggressive’ when we refuse to laugh off abuse as silly ‘boys being boys’, playing the ‘victim card’ and so on. Most of this was said about me on the misogynistic site and most of this is said about Stella and Caroline. The abusive behaviour is trivialised and dismissed – leaving only criticisms of the individual feminists in its place. And that’s how patriarchy survives on the internet.

 

Here is a direct quote from one of the misogynists in the comments section on Stella’s article, saying what I say here, in his own, woman-hating, delusional way:

 

“The difference now is that the internet is being stalked by a cohort of self-regarding fussy matrons with a malicious Feminist agenda who demand the right to speak and not be spoken back to, who want to promote their endless class hatred without getting any kind of reaction from the people they are attacking. It would be a whole lot better if these women had never decided to colonise the internet, and stuck to writing impenetrable post-Marxist screeds in journals”

 

In other words, feminists are ‘demanding’ to have a voice in public spaces and, when men don’t like what we say, we demand ‘not to be spoken back to’ (be abused, stalked and receive death/rape threats). If only we’d go away, out of public spaces, and into obscurity, life would be peaceful for these woman-haters. He’s said outright what some of the others parroted more conspiciously.

 

We see you. We see your attempts to stop feminists taking up public space and naming our truths and we say ‘no’. No. No, we won’t stop, no matter what you do or say.

Tracking the TERFs

rubyfruit2:

More concerns about how woman-haters undermine, humiliate and ‘expose’ (dox) online feminists simply because we believe women should be liberated

Originally posted on Feminists Unknown's Blog:

TT

Throughout the twentieth century women (we call them feminists) fought against a system (we call it gender) which sought to deny them any interior life or right to self-define. The gender hierarchy ensured that women’s space and time was seen as the property of men. Feminists argued that this was wrong. No one could think of a way to counter the feminist argument so it was agreed, in principle, that women were individuals in their own right (even if the practical implications of this were not always followed through).

In 2014 things changed. Misogynists had finally, after years of false starts (the mummy wars, neurosexism, “masculinity in crisis”), found their ultimate backlash tool: trans women (not trans women as individuals, deserving of respect. Simply the idea of trans women, as and when it came in useful to misogynists both trans and non-trans).

In 2014 it was decreed that all non-trans…

View original 353 more words

THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF SEXUALITY

We cannot discuss political lesbianism without, first, understanding the social construction of sexuality. The concept of political lesbianism directly flows from that understanding.

“Compulsory heterosexuality” includes sexuality as a basic tenet but compulsory heterosexuality is much broader. It defines the way in which heterosexuality is enshrined in our institutions, social structures and our conditioning to make women believe, from babyhood, that servicing men is innate, inevitable and ‘natural’.

The social construction of sexuality under male supremacy has men dominating and wielding power at its heart with women submitting, “being flexible” and conforming to the ‘idealized’ pornographic view of women as always available. All women are assessed against this social construction, no matter how far apart it is from anyone’s reality, most of all women’s.

Even if, as individuals, we’ve never been near men sexually, our cultural understanding about sexuality has soaked up this dominant/submissive dichotomy making it very difficult for women to find a sexuality completely free of power. S/m is presented as something ‘different’, a fetish that lies apart from all other sexuality, but we only have to view all-pervasive sexualized images in the social media to know this simply isn’t true.

Consciousness-raising (CR) is crucial for any feminism because CR enables us to review our whole life experience, not as isolated individuals, but as a member of a particular caste, conditioned to behave in particular ways for the benefit of men. Only when we start to develop that recognition can we begin our fight for freedom. The personal IS political. How can we fight against domestic violence if it’s something we’re experiencing, but not naming, in our own lives?

Many of us, through CR processes, have recognised that ANY relationship with men is so embedded with power imbalances that it is, or becomes, completely incompatible with our feminism. No matter how nice Nigel may be (or we need him to be), he still has power, privilege, and male status. For many of us, it becomes impossible to maintain any kind of close relationship with a man once the curtain has lifted.

At the same time, we realise through CR and our reading that, as women, we are taught to compete and be divided from one another. The intoxication we feel when we realise it’s possible to love other women, fully, in a woman-hating world is a continual joy. I do not understand the continuous argument among some ‘feminists’ that political lesbianism does not, or has not, included sexuality – as far as I am aware, it always has. It’s not a term for a celibate heterosexual. At the same time, as “Love Your Enemy” states, nor does it imply “compulsory sexual activity”. It’s simply opening up doors that compulsory heterosexuality, or the social construction of sexuality, closes by defining sexuality as fixed and ‘natural‘. “Men are abusive but I have no alternative but to be with them because my sexual feelings can’t change”

Once we understand that our sexuality is socially constructed and not ‘innate’ or ‘natural’, we can choose to redefine and re-shape it. Without that knowledge, that possibility does not exist. By this, I don’t mean just removing men from the equation and only being intimate with women, I mean everything. I mean removing the embedded idea that sex is about power and can’t exist without it; removing all the shit that is implanted deep, deep inside all females. If men want to fetishize submission then they do so by “playing with it”, they are raised with privilege and entitlement, it will never leave them, just like being raised as subordinate will never truly leave us. We can fight it though. We can fight it because sharing equality and love with women and finding new ways of being close and intimate, outside of the ugly world of domination and submission, is like discovering a new life.

We cannot fight a revolution if we are tied down and subdued in our own lives. This is not “individualism” or “life-stylism”, it’s just obviously true.

Further reading: http://www.feminist-reprise.org/docs/rian.htm

You might care about women if you ….

You might care about women if you …..

Gas Mark Six

Originally posted on naefearty:

Here’s something I wrote when I was asked to speak alongside Sheila Jeffreys, who was speaking about her book “Gender Hurts”, about how transgenderism harms women. In the end, I didn’t say all this, but for those of you who are interested, here it is..

“For the longest of time I told no-one. It is only in the past few years that I have found the words to describe my experience. Thank you, Sheila Jeffreys, and the Radical Feminist community of bloggers for the gift of words.

I used to have an online friend (also a partner of a man who thought he was a woman) who likened the experience of being partnered to a transgender to the frog who is put into the pot of water and the heat gradually turned up till cooked – a deliberate programme of de-sensitisation as each limit is compromised or ignored, and each line…

View original 4,010 more words

ARE YOU ON THEBLOCKBOT’S HIT LIST YET?

A disturbing new cultural phenomenon is hitting social media. You only become aware of it when you are its victim or its perpetrator. The main victims are feminists.  But an ever-increasing pool of twitter users are targeted, including those falling into the bracket of: feminists, radical feminists, followers of radical feminists or feminists on twitter and anyone expressing any kind of sympathy for the radical feminist position that gender is harmful.

That amounts to a large pool of women (and others) who are finding voices to describe, and oppose, patriarchy and who, consequently, are being culturally sidelined.

Here is how it is happening:

If you’re on twitter, you may have noticed there’s an account called @TheBlockBot. If you’re like me, you probably moved swiftly on, with a vague tut, and thought no more about it.

Just recently, however, I’ve been piecing together an ominous pattern of male domination and control via social media – a pattern which goes beyond the usual attacks and misogynist accusations levelled at individual women. This is a concerted and collective effort to distort and automatically block out (hence the name “TheBlockBot”) the feminist position on social media.

George Orwell’s “1984″ imagined a state-led “Big Brother”. However, the one we actually have in 2014 is a technological domination which culturally and socially induces male supremacy. The state uses legislation and policy edicts to follow, and re-enforce, those patriarchal social norms. That is why we must take TheBlockBot and the varying other forms of coercion, intimidation, and distortions of feminism, in the social media seriously. There is no doubt these are initiated by regressive libertarians presenting themselves as the new vanguard. TheBlockBot is an example of this phenomenon in action and why I am highlighting it here. Towards the end of this post, I will give a further, recent, disturbing example.

@TheBlockBot is a user-invented twitter programme where anyone can add anyone else on twitter to a list of blockees if they commit dubious twitter “crimes” or even for being plain “annoying”.  Feminists aren’t doing our job if we’re not “annoying” patriarchy so that immediately puts us in the frame. “Annoying” is also highly subjective. Anyone at all not toeing the regressive political line is vulnerable for attack. In TheBlockBot’s own words: (TheBlockBot is) “a Twitter gadget that can be used by Twitter users to silently block trolls, abusers, bigots, and other unsavoury people.”

If a twitter user subscribes, they will then automatically block everyone on the hit list. Anyone can report anyone else. This creates a platform for resistance to feminist politics but also anyone with a grudge or dislike against anyone else can lump them in with “whorephobes” or “transphobes” (see my recent post  sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/the-truth-about-radical-feminism/ ) and instigate mass blockings. There are different levels of severity – level 1-4. From what I can make out, however, the different levels make no difference at all to the impact on the individual targeted by this application. Everyone on the list is equally blocked by the same number of people. The levels merely reflect the severity of the judgement laid at the door of individual twitter users.

This feature is not completely open and random despite its pretence that it seeks to protect those who use it. (It will) “remove some of the harassment that is usually directed your way” (TheBlockBot, FAQ). As we shall see, I am on this list and I have never “harassed” any individuals (by which I mean personally attacked or personalised political conflict on twitter). On twitter, the word “harassed”, a bit like the word “gender”, has come to mean anything anyone wants it to mean.  The political bias embedded in the programme is described in the discussion after the FAQ guidance. We’re told that “radfems” are worse than “MRAs” (these are groups of specific male supremacists who are concerned that male privilege is under attack) “Radfems” are worse because they “are well organised and have the ability to deny trans peoples rights, currently they are working with xtian ex-gay groups to influence the law” (TheBlackBot, December 2013) (Don’t let the facts get in your way before you make assertions and block)

Looking at the lists of “administrators” /”blockers”, unsurprisingly, we see there is an over-representation of transactivists/men.  A quick glance at some of their twitter accounts shows quite a mixed politics but most lean towards the political left and/or “alternative” politics. All seem to unquestioningly subscribe to queer theory which is on the opposite spectrum of feminism, particularly radical feminism.

Concerns are raised about how the programme curtails “free speech” by people posting in the comment section. TheBlockBot argues that being blocked on twitter is not limiting “free speech”, it’s simply about ignoring those whose opinions you wish to ignore (so which is it? Is it a block for when people harass you individually? Is it a feature to block out “annoyances” or is it available to blank out those who say anything which upsets your political sensibilities?) . They entirely miss the point when they say the application does not limit “free speech”. And the point is that, by blocking en masse, they create a social construction. They create an intention to marginalise and control feminist politics by de-humanising, targeting and demonizing individuals who express those politics on twitter. And it works. I have heard from many women that they are afraid to express their gender critical views for fear of being labelled and ostracised within their communities.

If social media is merely a functional place where you are free to ignore what, and who, you want, big corporations would not spend millions on how to communicate effectively on it, the press wouldn’t be quoting twitter “moods” and reality TV shows wouldn’t call for live tweeting. Twitter is a phenomenon which has Social Capital under patriarchy.

The fact that users are manipulating twitter for any political reason at all is unsettling by itself. When we add their rationale for placing feminists on the block, it becomes disturbing.

 

They have designed a function where you can search to see who is on the blocklist and decide whether you want to add someone if they aren’t already there. I assumed, as a gender-critical radical feminist who has never launched personal attacks on individuals, I would be there. I was not prepared for the reasons given. I was “reported” twice and placed in level 2/3 (not sure which – both appear under the report against my twitter name). It also doesn’t matter which because, by appearing on the list at all, there is auto blocking by unknown numbers of twitter users.

 
My “crimes” were pointing out that men invade female-only spaces for all kinds of reasons, including to be sexually violent. I even gave a link as an example – this one: http://www.torontosun.com/2014/02/15/a-sex-predators-sick-deception (The person responding could only remark on the right-wing nature of the media outlet the report could be found in). I have googled and not found one report or post, of whatever political flavour, which argues that this was NOT a man pretending to be trans. According to stavvers and her friends, this never happens. Linking to this one example, was enough to get me auto-blocked by potentially thousands of users.

 
My second “crime” was a defiant response when observing that some transactivists were targeting feminists through using a hashtag called #TERFweek. I knew the impact of such patterns of behaviour would be to intimidate feminists from discussing gender-critical observations and analysis. I said, therefore, that by producing such a hashtag they were targeting me – meaning that I would not allow myself to be separated from other radical feminists, not that I self-identified as a “TERF” (a term which is a slur and used to label and de-humanise political opponents).

 
@invisiblechoice, the innovative feminist art project, is on the list for being “anti-sex workers”. The project reports the words of johns with no analysis. The fact that this project is on the list at all shows the true agenda of those behind it – to discredit and distort feminist activism – as opposed to identifying those with “transphobic tendencies” (sic)

 

I saw other women I am following challenge misogyny and be placed on the list. It’s not exactly unsurprising that feminists, challenging the status quo, would be circled in such a way by men and transactivists using the excuse of “bigotry”. They do so with buckets full of deception about what radical feminism actually is, who is involved and what our motivation is.

 
It became clear to me as I read the reasons why women are added to the block, that it IS a contemporary mechanism to silence feminist voices and control all women who may dare to begin to question how oppressive the gender hierarchy is. Any feminist can be labelled a “TERF” when she does so, and be blocked. Women are already marginalised and feel reluctant to express feminist politics online, or anywhere, because of our subordinate status. This phenomenon is a new layer of attack, designed to re-enforce patriarchal norms by subverting our feminist messages so profoundly that we are the ones labelled “bigots” for fighting injustices against women. We STARTED the debate about gender and we have much, much more to say now, in 2014. For that, some are prepared to go a long way to dishonestly re-frame our politics as being inhumane and without compassion.

 
Riding in tandem with this feature, are numerous lies and distortions found on twitter. A few days ago, I read that some transactivists (I use that term to mean anyone who prioritises transrights above the rights of women) were organising a social, private, informal get-together via the public medium of twitter.

http://www.twitter.com/WomenCanSee/status/490318003406254080/photo/1

Took me a while to work this out, but, from what I can see, everyone involved in the conversation, except GID Watch and Voltinavoce, are all transactivists/men. My interpretation is that the man who wrote the tweet, although seemingly gave their immediate location away publically, didn’t produce a series of tweets to “stalk” (stalking means persistent unwanted attention including following someone and monitoring their whereabouts) as the transactivists go on to state happened, over and over. It was one tweet revealing someone had informed him of their location some time earlier.

 

Whatever this incident was about, and regardless of whichever non-radical feminist tweeted what, this has absolutely nothing to do with radical feminism or radical feminists. We are concerned with the liberation of women. Yet the stigmatisation and demonizing of radical feminists surrounds the myth as it rages on, with many believing the stories unquestioningly. It is a good illustration of how demonization of women takes place under patriarchy – men do things, women are to blame for what they do. A pattern repeated over and over.

 
This incident has been blown up like a fire in a forest. Statements such as “TERFS are telling each other where we are and ‘stalking’ us” are resonating across parts of twitter. The distortion, like many others, becomes a truth.  It looks to me like manipulative stage-management. I wish we could just dismiss it as twitter animosity but we can’t. This kind of manipulation is played out and has real life consequences. Our venues, our speakers are attacked and it’s these very kind of anecdotes (or quotes taken out of context) which is used to “prove” that radical feminists “hate” transactivists. It is an effective silencing tool. It is imperative that radical feminists are not silenced about something so harmful to women as gender.

 

(edit: post updated to include new information)

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