sisterhoodispowerful

Radical Feminist Resistance

Month: June, 2013

THE PATRIARCHAL CONCEPT OF “LEADERSHIP”

Today, there seems to be a virtually unquestioning embrace of the concept of “leadership” within (radical) feminist circles.

This blog post will set out why I critique the concept of “leadership” as a method of organisation which is fundamentally incompatible with feminism. I will criticise not just the use of the word by (radical) feminists, but also the patriarchal practice behind it, even if the rhetoric of “sisterhood” is used to promote it.

THE PAST AND NON-HIERARCHICAL POLITICAL ACTION

I admit to having many a rose-coloured trip down memory lane as I remember workshops without facilitators at feminist conferences, direct actions without a clear plan before we get there, and when the police came to talk to us, their being told there was no spokesMAN and their confusion as they scrabbled about not knowing how to relate to a phenomenon outside their rigid world order.

Back then, our feminist worlds were not only full of theory about patriarchal injustices. They were buzzing with the excitement of ideas. If we believed in women’s liberation – what did that mean for women? How can women be free? There was a sense that we were pioneers, taking new steps in foreign lands.

As part of our consciousness-raising, we examined our experiences of being socialised as females and realised how deeply embedded that socialisation went into our very psyche. How quick we were to give way, to believe others could do it better; do it with more confidence and with more flare. We’d believe we’d be better sitting quietly in the background, helping out. Until, that is, we discovered feminism and feminists who were trying to lead lives and politically collectively organise in very different ways.

Structures, groups, networks and political activism were carried out on the basis that any of us can do anything if we had the skills, confidence and knowledge to do it. Enshrined in our activism was a desire to share knowledge, skills, experience without the movement losing it at a  collectively- held level. We needed a fluid and flexible movement to be sustainable. We knew this was best achieved by having collective knowledge, rather than knowledge (skills and experience) left in the minds and hearts of a few individuals and so, potentially, lost if those women moved on. Such projects were not easy, there were many mistakes along the way. Many of us learned from them, wrote about them, analysed them in the privacy of our own safe spaces and tried to do better next time.

“Leaders” and “celebrities” were shied away from in favour of the principle that no woman has reached her potential under patriarchy but, within feminism, we would collectively work hard to enable all women to do so.

THE CONCEPT OF “LEADERSHIP “

Some radical feminists say they use the word “leader” in a non-patriarchal way – they merely mean “role model”, for example. They mean they are inspired by one woman’s decision to do something political. If that’s what they mean, why are they using such a patriarchal word, with very clear patriarchal connotations, such as “leader” “competitiveness” “followers” and “directives”? It’s true that even patriarchal academic books refer to the concept of “leaders” differently, now, as meaning anyone, no matter what their “official” status within society is. But I don’t think that they have anyone fooled by doing so, have they? Let’s look at Eton, for example, it has spawned 19 prime ministers and numerous other positions of patriarchal “leadership” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8622933.stm . It is not a coincidence that a school which costs £30,000 per year has bred and moulded so many capitalist-patriarchal leaders, instilling male supremacist values in them so that they, in turn, can perpetuate them within wider society. “Eton – the training ground for our future leaders rulers – instinctively understands the nature of power” http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2013/05/what-eton-knows.html (Eton, the historic institution for rich boys, understands that men who are “leaders”, perpetuate, mirror and uphold the institutions and structures of hetero-capitalist-patriarchy).

WHAT PATRIARCHAL LEADERSHIP MEANS

For very important reasons, the well-known patriarchal quote states “Behind every successful man is a great woman” (and the feminist cat-friendly version: “Behind every successful woman is a rather talented cat”). It’s a quote which confirms that patriarchal societies assign supporting roles to women and “leading” roles to men. Herstorically, over centuries, women have only been able to glimpse “power” and fame vacuously through her associations with a male. He was the leader and she was “behind him”. Even though many women throughout history performed patriarchal games better than the men they were “behind“, they could only ever hope to play the supporting role.  In a patriarchal world, “leaders” surround themselves with supporters and fans. Women are traditionally socialised to be the care-givers, the quiet, unpaid “unsung heroines” in the domestic sphere while the male “leaders” publically and visibly win wars or rebellions. The traditional work of women is invisible, “behind-the-scenes” and will never be viewed as being so important it should be given the label “leadership” . All of this is a world which perpetuates inherent structural inequalities and keeps the goal of women’s liberation at a distance. In other words, the concept of patriarchal “leadership” is inherently flawed, misleading and down-plays women’s work. It has no place in a movement which, to succeed in its goals, needs collective action leading to radical social change.

WHY BLENDING CONCEPTS OF “LEADERSHIP” WITH FEMINIST GOALS DOESN’T WORK

If feminists who say non-patriarchal leadership is possible, are right, why does the very use of the term, and naming of individual feminist “leaders”, automatically wipe out the work and contributions of those who surround that individual? In a feminist world, women work together on collective action and all contributions, great and small, bring us closer to our goals. When we uncritically use the concept of “leadership”, we fail to acknowledge that the movement we are in has fundamentally different goals to that of patriarchy.

I hear that, at the end of a recent radical feminist event, someone thanked two women as “the main organisers”. Not only was there a question mark over whether “main organisers” existed, and, if they did, who they were (and what definition was being used), there was also one over whether individual women needed to be singled out at all; especially in such a way as to rewrite our herstory about how activism happens among us. There was silence for the woman who spent hours and hours creating some of the most powerful and memorable graphics of recent radical feminist herstory, silence for the woman who spent hours and hours of her time making technical changes, silence for the many women who, whilst limited, practically, in the planning of the event, threw in as many ideas and supportive suggestions as they could to help shape collective decisions. When we artificially create “leaders” in our movement, we devalue the collective contributions of those around them. It is a false, patriarchal idea that one person, alone, in isolation, has made something communal happen. Patriarchy is littered with lies about women, and the roles we play. I oppose the perpetuation of that phenomenon within the (radical) feminist movement in the name of political organisation.

At its very worst, we claim “leaders” in those who bully and/or manipulate their way into such positions, often throwing in red-herring reversals against those who challenge their motivation, as they go. Some laugh when they hear this and say “what possible “power” could someone have within a marginalised, small, impoverished movement?” There is the “power” of credibility, of being asked to speak and represent the movement, of having work circulated, of meeting other “influential leaders” in the movement and so on. We perpetuate patriarchal modes of behaviour, consciously or unconsciously, when we enable this trend within our movement. If we focus on promoting women’s feminist work, find out how to support it and join in with it, we’re less likely to get distracted by a feminist version of a soap opera with leading sheroes at the helm. It is not feminist and it will not help us reach collective goals.

An example of enabling feminist work to speak for itself while the individual behind the project is unseen is “The Invisible Men” project (WARNING:GRAPHIC CONTENT) http://the-invisible-men.tumblr.com/ The spotlight is firmly on men who buy women and what they say as they do so and not, as is usually the case, on the “choices” of the class of women who are prostituted, objectified, sold and abused. By focusing our political attention on what men do to women, and not on individual women, we further the radical feminist goal of dismantling patriarchy.

FEMINIST THEORY AND THE CONCEPT OF LEADERSHIP IS INCOMPATIBLE

By uncritically accepting the concept of “leaders” as a “good thing” we buy into an ideology which male supremacy has promoted so successfully that it is almost embedded within our psyche. We already know, however, that the world looks different through a feminist lens. The concept of “leadership” is driven by an ideology that we are “born” with certain characteristics or traits (men, of course, are more inclined to be “natural” leaders than women, middle-class women more than working class, white women more than black women and so on). Hetero-capitalist-patriarchy would have us believe it has nothing to do with being schooled for the role and nothing to do with, consciously or unconsciously, perpetuating ideas about “natural” inequalities between groups of people and nothing to do with structural power and the role “leaders” play in maintaining the status quo (while often using a rhetoric of social change). Radical feminists have written at length about how patriarchy upholds male supremacy through structural oppression. The concept and role of “leadership” is a plank in that structure. It takes a social movement to bring about successful social change; collective action, not the compelling words, or even actions, of a “leader” (or two).

Although not exclusively so, it tends to particularly be working class women and black women’s contributions which are seen as “lesser” and not worthy of the label “leader”, but of “follower” and “helper”. In part, that’s because white, middle class women are more comfortable with taking on “leadership” roles; even though they are women, they are socialised with a sense of class entitlement whilst working class women’s work is unseen and devalued under patriarchy. Unless we consciously unpick the power structures of capitalist-patriarchy, we perpetuate them in our very own movement so that, in the end, it is they, not our external ideological opponents, which defeat us. By actively and consciously taking collective action as opposed to uncritically mirroring concepts of patriarchal “leadership” we can start to do this.

VALUING THE WORK OF ALL WOMEN

It IS important to value the work of individuals but not at the expense of other women’s work which may have been carried out with less fanfare. All women’s work within feminism needs to be noticed and valued – it is, after all, a patriarchal idea that much of women’s work goes unnoticed and unpaid. It is vital that a radical feminist movement does not perpetuate such behaviour by only valuing the work of those who are most visible. We are activists because we believe in what we do and because we are working for other sisters. When other motivations begin to dominate, it is a sign that all is not well within the movement, or pockets of the movement.

In part, I blame the internet for this obsession with individuals and individualism and egotism with its structure of rewards for those individuals. In my blog post “Making the Internet Work for radical feminism” https://sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/making-the-internet-work-for-radical-feminism/ I discuss how we might get round some of these pitfalls but it is not enough. The real culprit is the fabric of patriarchy and our failure to take action in ways which are sufficiently different. We can actively break down the influences of internalised patriarchy through how we work together and by discouraging the promotion of “leadership” as a positive way forward for the feminist movement.

If we are to work towards the common goal of women’s liberation, then each of us needs to be the best activist we can be. If that is to be achieved, it is vital that the same women do not carry out the same roles, over and over, without making way for others. It is crucial that some women don’t “lead” the movement by articulating what it is for the rest of us. If we maintain collective ground we can ensure the theoretical boundaries of radical feminism are firmly held. It is also important we recognise the difference between theory, activism and feminist ethics. There seems to be a terrible muddle between all three during these emerging, contemporary, sparks of a radical feminist movement. For a sustainable movement, they will be teased apart, named, discussed and practiced.

Every woman has to believe she has something of value to contribute if she is to participate in collective action. It may take time, it may take experience, it may take building our self-esteem and confidence first. It is by emphasizing how we collaborate and how we work well together that we will achieve feminist goals, not how we value, celebrate and promote the concept of “leaders” and the individual (often self-proclaimed) “leaders” themselves, which is a divisive and competitive way forward.

WORKING TOWARDS COLLECTIVE GOALS – THE WAY FORWARD

My favourite “all time highlights”, in both this period of radical feminism, and the last, has been when a group of us have achieved something together. When we have supported each other, laughed together, cried together, improved our collective work by feeding back to each other constructively, equally, in good faith, without anyone weighing up how much input we each have had, like pieces of gold, and without any one (or two) individuals constantly seeking to have ultimate control through a variety of overt or hidden, subtle means. This is (radical) feminist collective action. It is achievable and it is a memorable experience.

No one, definitely not me, is saying that collective working is easy. No one is saying it’s not “uneven” at times, with, inevitably, some women doing more political work than others. We can support and encourage each other to share out roles more evenly, to have equal access to information/shared resources, to work on what we’ll do when we disagree, to describe how we’ll learn new skills within the group or agree that different women will focus on different elements of the organisation of our shared activity and that each contribution is equally valued. If we don’t do this, women get burned out and/or resentful towards those who push themselves, or are pushed, into the limelight/the firing line. We each have a responsibility to ask ourselves: “why am *I* (not) doing this?”

Our movement cannot be sustained unless we each instil in ourselves, and each other, the confidence to take forward our work, together, supportively.

(Reminder: I do not publish anti-radical feminist posts nor posts which reveal the details of specific internal splits/divisions. This is a public space, unashamedly promoting the theory, practice and ethics of radical feminism. Throughout what I have written, I have frequently put “radical“ in brackets because I believe it is mostly radical feminists who will find this debate of significance but, if feminism itself still has the goal of women‘s liberation, then the content of this blog post is of relevance to other feminisms too).

Malespeak with Radical Feminist Translations

Guest post by:
Elaine Charkowski

Mary Daly in her book Quintessence wrote, “Naming the agent is required for an adequate analysis of atrocities.” As linguist Julia Penelope has shown in her book Speaking Freely: Unlearning the Lies of the Fathers’ Tongues, “Agent deletion is a dangerous and common mind-muddying flaw.”

The purpose of “Malespeak” is to avoid naming MALE violence against women and it’s perpetrators (MEN) specifically. After reading Carol Adam’s books (Neither Man Nor Beast, The Sexual Politics of Meat and The Pornography of Meat) about how male violence against animals and women are not named, I watched for more instances of linguistic techniques to avoid naming male violence against women. Here are the kinds I have gathered so far. I’m sure there are more!

•The Absent Referent
This refers to something without actually NAMING it. Carol Adams coined this term in her books linking men’s abuse of women and animals. Animal examples of the absent referent are: “veal” (baby bull flesh) “steak” (cow flesh) “bacon” (pig flesh) etc.

Some examples of the absent referent that don’t name men as the agents of women’s agony are “domestic violence” “gender based violence” “family violence” “sexual violence” “intimate partner violence” or just “violence.” All these timid terms dance around naming male violence, and thus, men as the agents. They also do not name those who men abuse – women.

Here is an extreme use of the absent referent by lawyers defending a school district in which an adult male teacher raped a twelve-year-old girl:

Malespeak: “Carelessness and negligence on her part, proximately, contributed to the happenings of the incident.”

Neither the perpetrator (the adult male teacher), his victim (the girl he raped), nor the crime of rape (“the happenings of the incident”) was mentioned. In addition, the lawyers blamed the girl for “causing” the man to rape her because of where she was (her “proximately”).

Radical feminist translation: “An adult male teacher raped a twelve-year-old girl. The lawyers said it was her fault because of where she was.”

•The Passive Voice
The agents (men) are not named.
Malespeak – “The women were raped.”

In this example, women are “doing” the “action” (being raped). This shifts the focus away from the men doing the raping. The absent referent is also used since men are not named. Malespeak can consist of more than one element.

Malespeak: “I refuse to watch as more than a billion women experience violence on the planet.”

Radical Feminist Translation: I refuse to watch as MEN inflict MALE VIOLENCE on more than a billion women on the planet.”

Again, the women are “doing the action” of “experiencing violence.” The absent referent is also used since men are not named. It’s male violence, not “violence.”

• The Active Voice
The perpetrators (men) and their victims are named, so this is not Malespeak.
Radical feminist translation- “Men raped the women.” The focus is on men doing the raping and the absent referent is not used since men are named as the rapists. Men are the subject of the sentence.

• Gender-neutral language
This uses obfuscation (lumping things together to obscure each of them, such as women and men). Gender-neutral language is a type of absent referent that avoids naming male abuses.

Malespeak- “Children are raping children because of seeing porn at a young age.”

Naming the sex of the abuser is necessary to name the agents, males, and the ones they rape, girls:

Radical feminist translation-”Boys are raping girls…”

Gender-neutral language can also be used to make women’s accomplishments invisible: In this case, the terms are “Native Americans” and “they.”

Malespeak- “Native Americans skinned buffalo, deer and other animals. They scraped and pounded the hides until clean and pliable. They sewed tipi covers, clothing, moccasins, and containers to carry their belongings. They adorned their containers and clothes with beautiful designs made from dyed porcupine quills. They were also responsible for childcare, gathering edible vegetables, and cooking all the meals. ”

Radical feminist translation- “Native American WOMEN skinned buffalo, deer and other animals. The WOMEN scraped and pounded the hides until clean and pliable. . . .

•Erasing and/or watering down women’s words

Malespeak- The “women’s movement.”
This is Malespeak for “women’s liberation.” This erases the whole idea of liberation and no longer begs the question of who women need liberating from (men). Worse, “gender studies” (formerly “women’s studies”) erases both women and their need for liberation from men by using gender-neutral language to lump women and men together (obfuscation).

Radical Feminist translation-”women’s liberation.” This both states that women need to be liberated and who they need liberating from, men.

•The False Equivalent

This is a type of obfuscation that blends male violence with female violence. This is to obscure the fact that violence is overwhelmingly male violence by equating it with the far fewer instances of female violence. Mary Daly called this use of language “Universalism.” For example, “violence” is often cast as a sex-neutral human issue, since “women are violent too” “what about Margaret Thatcher” etc.

Below is data from the Bureau of US Justice Statistics

Males were almost 10 times more likely than females to commit murder in 2005.

ALL Homicide Types Listed by Sex (1976-2005)
88% Male, 11.2% Female.”

Eldercide Male 85.2% Female 14.8%
Felony murder Male 93.2% Female 6.8% female
Sex related murder Male 93.6% Female 6.4%
Gang related murder Male 98.3% Female 1.7%
Drug related murder Male 95.5% Female 4.5%
Workplace murders Male 91.3% Female 8.7%
Argument murders Male 85.6 % Female 14.4%
GUN homicide Male 91.3% Female 8.7%
Multiple victims Male 93.5% Female 6.5%
Child murder Of those children killed by someone other than the parent, 81% were killed by MEN.
Child Molestation:
According to the US Dept of Justice, “Males are reported to be the abusers in 80% to 95% of cases.” Thoriger, D., et al 1988. http://www.yellodyno.com/html/child_molester_stats.html

And last but not least, legal mass serial killings listed by the MILLIONS of people MEN killed in WARS (started by MEN).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War#Nine_largest_wars_.28by_death_toll.29

1911 – The men who ruled Turkey disarmed its citizens, and between 1915 – 1917 they murdered 1.5 million Armenians.
1929 – The men who ruled Russia disarmed its citizens, and between 1929 – 1953 they murdered 20 million Russians.
1935 – The men who ruled China disarmed its citizens, and between 1948 – 1952 they murdered 20 million Chinese.
1938 – The men who ruled Germany disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1939 – 1945 they murdered 6 million Jews.
1956 – The men who ruled Cambodia disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1975 – 1977 they murdered 1 million Educated people.
1964 – The men who ruled Guatemala disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1964 – 1981 they murdered 100,000 Mayan Indians.
1970 – The men who ruled Uganda disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1971 – 1979 they murdered 300,000 Christians.

• Giving words volition, making words into a person or thing with the power to act.
Words just carry meaning, sounds from vocal cords or combinations of letters. However, Malespeak turns words into actual physical entities with the power to act:

Malespeak- “War broke out.” The word “war” is given the power to “break out.” This is also another use of absent referent that does not name the agents (men) nor their victims.

Radical feminist translation- “MEN decided to wage war to kill (fill in the blank of the ones men want to kill).”

Malespeak-“Israel bombed Palestine” “Israel” is just a word that defines a country, but Malespeak gives it the power to act (bomb Palestine). Again, the absent referent is used to avoid naming the agents (men) nor are their victims named:

Radical feminist translation- “The men who run the government of Israel ordered the bombing of women, children, men, animals, birds, trees, etc).” The agents not named are those who flew the bombers, nor are their victims named.
Male violence against women is one kind of male violence that impacts half the human race. Other forms of male violence include, but are not limited to: racism, colonization, genocide, nationalism and Ecocide, the murder of the Living World (environmental male violence against Mother Earth).

In her book “Come Inside the Circle of Creation,” Elizabeth Dodson said that patriarchy is the fatal need to rank diversity. If we try to rank all the abuses within human society by claiming that “our” abuse is more important and worse than “their” abuse, we also rank the value of its victims. Thus, the hierarchy and all its divisions that keep us separate and fighting with each other are preserved.

However, there is only one type of male violence that must be ranked as the worst of all. This is Ecocide, men’s systematic murder of the Living World upon which humanity and all life depends. It is implemented by capitalist patriarchy.

In ALL of these types of violence, no matter if collaborators help them or not, MEN are the common denominator and are in control of all aspects of male violence.

Male violence is the worst problem in the world.

PROTECTING FEMALE-ONLY SPACES IN THE UK

Radical feminists met in London on 8 and 9 June in an openly publicised venue, despite threats, intimidatory tactics, distortions and misrepresentations of our politics.

Overblown hype from those who oppose radical feminism made it a controversial conference. The one constant in all the anti-radfem rhetoric, whether from MREs (male “rights” extremists) or transactivists and their allies, was the false accusations about the unlawful nature of our meetings. Anti-radical feminists claim, over and over, that venues cancel our events because our politics is so bound in hate that it is unlawful for us to meet. When we tell them this is not true, they accuse us of lying.

This post, for the first time in public, briefly sets out the truth in relation to radfem2013 and UK law. The purpose of it is to build on the way legal knowledge was used in the run-up to radfem2013 to ensure that our events are never again cancelled by those who oppose us through the inaccurate use of legislation. They have, for too long, unjustly used legislation as a political tool to silence and censor us.

This post will explain how such tactics did not work for radfem2013. The post will also describe the ideological context which leads to extremist male “rights” groups calling for equality laws to protect their right-wing agenda against feminists who oppose male violence.

THE LEGAL POSITION

An interim legal statement, published on this blog on 24 April 2013( https://sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/interim-legal-statement-by-radfem2013-organisers/) explained that radfem2013 organisers have had legal advice from the outset. I do not propose to go into the detail of the history but briefly:

* Formal legal advice was received which explained how our conference was lawful and how no venue was breaking the law by holding it on their premises

* Off To Work (the contractor operating from London Irish centre and initial host of our conference) received that advice but clearly did not understand its implications for its own business otherwise it is doubtful the original venue would have been cancelled.

* Our solicitor explained to Off to Work that to cancel our conference would be unlawful. From that moment on, Off To Work, very helpfully, assisted the organising group to find an alternative venue in numerous ways. They also published a statement which made clear that the cancellation was not due to anything the radfem2013 organisers or speakers had said or done. They clearly stated the cancellation was due to the intimidatory tactics used by anti-radfems and the lack of resources available to them to deal with this, given London Irish centre, the venue, is a small charity.

* The second venue, Camden Centre, was bigger, and in a more central location, and so it was a better outcome than the original plan.

* A council owned this second venue (Camden Centre) and are used to dealing with controversial events. A council is much more aware of its legal responsibilities and has its own legal department which other, smaller, venues do not have. The council underwent a thorough risk assessment, including an assessment as to whether radfem2013 presenters, such as Sheila Jeffreys and Lierre Keith, are appropriate speakers at an event held on council premises. The council decided they were.

* The myth that, somehow, radical feminist events contravene an individual organisation’s equality policies, by being explicit that we meet as women to discuss, and tackle, male violence, is now put to bed. Our solicitor explained this was not the case to Off To Works (a letter shared with London Irish Centre) and clearly Camden Council understood this too.

* The event went ahead without incident

Those responsible for overseeing the legal work are keen that it is used to protect female-only spaces for shared political goals, for healing under patriarchy and for women-only services. We want to share what happened in the run-up to radfem2013 with other radical feminists in the UK, women-only political groups and women-only services so that they too, can use the law as a political tool to protect female-only spaces.

If you are involved in UK radfem activism, a UK feminist organisation/social group and you want some support and advice in order to protect female-only spaces, mail radfem.legalhelp@gmail.com giving details, including contact details.

If you’re able to help with expenses, it may also be possible for us to run workshops about how to protect female-only spaces using existing legislation. Contact radfem.legalhelp@gmail.com to discuss further.

IDEOLOGICAL CONTEXT

How have men/queers/transactivists been so successful at shutting down female-only space? It stems back to the slow, evolving, way the debate about “equalities” cancels out women’s oppression in favour of “gender-based” oppression (see blog post dated June 6 2013 https://sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/male-violence-not-gender-based-violence/). By calling it “gender-based” violence, there is political space to deny the structural power men have over women and claim that violence comes from all individuals, equally.

As radical feminists, we know that the true source of women’s oppression, and other oppressions, are embedded in the institutions, systems and structures of society and that this, together with cultural norms, creates “patriarchy”. We know, therefore, that any legislation will be limited, at best, and used against us, at worst.

Patriarchy is never going to acknowledge that oppression is enshrined in the very fabric of society. The myth of the state, as a neutral arbitrator, supporting the rights of equally competing interests/groups within society, props up that fabric. The state drafts legislation. Legislation is based on that myth. Male “rights” extremists groups, and others, feed off it in order to censor and silence us.

Unsurprising then that the Equality Act 2010 has been used with such relish by male extremist groups and queer/transactivists to try and stop radical feminists naming our truths.

If anti-radical feminists wrongly use the act to attempt to silence and censor us, it follows that we must evoke it to stop them from doing so. That’s what happened to enable radfem2013 to happen, openly and lawfully, and that can happen again for other women-only spaces. If we can’t even meet together, we can’t fight patriarchy and so it is important that all radical feminists confidently move forward, knowing that
our political work is lawful.

LEGAL HELP FOR RADICAL FEMINISTS

Do you need help to safely run a radical feminist/women-only event/workshop/activity/service?

contact: radfem.legalhelp@gmail.com (Give as much detail as possible, including contact details)

Do you want to invite the women behind the legal work for radfem2013 to facilitate a workshop about the legal position relating to women-only space? (you may need to fund-raise for expenses) Contact: radfem.legalhelp@gmail.com

Do you want to ensure that feminist networks, services, radical feminist and other feminist women-only (on and off line) groups know there are ways in which the law can be used to sustain women-only space? If so, share this blog post widely with UK-based women-only services/facebook and other UK-based feminist on/offline groups and networks

We will not be silenced, we will not be censored and we’re not going underground.

RIGHTS OF WOMEN STATEMENT 7 June 2013

On Friday 7 June 2013, a group of radical feminist activists went into the heart of London to reclaim our right to meet as females. On the eve of the first openly held women’s liberation conference in decades, women gathered in the busiest railway station in the UK.

female meeting space

We were there to celebrate our triumph at meeting together in a large women-only space – despite all the obstacles thrown in our way before we could get there. They included: wrongly asserting that females meeting together, without men, is unlawful; falsely stating in the social media that our politics is violent and hateful; accusing our speakers of “hate speech” and calling for them to be “no platformed” simply for critiquing gender; naming truths about male violence; intimidating venues into cancelling our conference and anonymously threatening our organisers and attendees with violence and rape.

We circled a statue called “The Meeting Place” a symbol of heterosexual normality. The 9 metre high statue represents the acceptable face of patriarchy – men and women publicly embracing and united. We gathered at that statue to say, publicly and loudly, that females meeting together, embracing and united, is a basic right. And yet it is so threatening to patriarchy, that, in 2013, 100 years after the violent struggle for the vote, we are continuously censored, silenced, intimidated, when we say we’ll be meeting.

We want to name our truths as females socialised in a world where women are oppressed, tortured, killed, raped, sexually assaulted, prostituted and exploited as a social norm. Men do not want us to name these truths. They tell us, if we do so at all, we must discuss male violence “underground”, in secrecy and in fear. We will not allow men to tell us we can’t be together without them. We will not allow men to dictate the boundaries of our movement. It is our basic right to decide for ourselves and we will claim it.

silent no more (2)

On Friday 7 June, at St Pancras, opposite the venue for the 2013 women’s liberation conference, and round the corner to where Emily Davison was commemorated for dedicating her life to women, almost 100 years to the day, we read this rights of women statement:

First woman: Today, in the 21st century, in 2013, 100 years after Emily Davison died fighting for the vote, women’s rights to politically organise are under attack. There are moments in history when women have to fight for our basic rights. Today is one of those moments. Women now, and in the past, fight for the right to be educated and take part in democracy. Today, we are fighting for our right to meet as females. The law, calls of bigotry, lies and smears, are used by men to shut us down. Extremist male groups try to intimidate us and anyone who supports us. We are here, today, at St Pancras “meeting place” statue to say together, to say out loud, that we will not be silenced. We will claim our rights.

This is our rights of women statement which we, revolutionary feminists, read to you today, on the 7 June, 2013, St Pancras, London.

We have a right to meet together as women

We have a right to claim women-only space

We have a right to state that “gender” benefits men at the expense of women

We have a right to critique gender ( and to state that swapping or “playing with” gender does not change the fact that men have power and control within society)

We have a lawful right to meet under the Human Rights Act and under the equality act – and even if we didn’t, we’d do it anyway

We oppose the use of existing laws to censor us and restrict our freedom of assembly and our freedom to politically organise.

As a class of oppressed people, we have a right to politically organise to fight for the freedom of females, without fear of harassment and intimidation.

We have a right to openly present our politics, clearly and without compromise,

We have a right to correct distortions, misinterpretations and lies about our politics because these are attempts to silence us

We will not be silenced

We are angry women and, today, we claim our women-only space by surrounding the “meeting place“, the spot where historically thousands of people walk these platforms.

We will continue to claim our women-only ground, from this day on, until women can meet safely and without fear.

We unite with all women everywhere, throughout history, and internationally, who have fought for the basic right to meet to talk about our freedoms and rights.

We will fight for our sisters of today and our sisters of the future, until patriarchy is destroyed.

–Ruby, Lakha, Jackie, Lysandra, Sabine, Firestone, Nia and all the sisters present at the action.

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In memory of Alles Gut, who contributed to this statement, and took part in this action on the 7th June 2013 as, together, with other radical feminist activists, we spoke these words in protest against patriarchy.

MALE VIOLENCE, NOT “GENDER-BASED” VIOLENCE

There is a new trend. It stems from queer theory. Like other queer theory approaches, it attempts to obscure the fact that men, as a class, systematically oppress and exploit women, as a class. And it leaves the door wide open for MPAs (Male Privileged Agitators)  to come bursting into the feminist domain.

MPAs (Male Privileged Agitators) are a tiny minority of men who formally organise to express their hatred of women, and particularly, feminists. They present themselves as being reasonable and a “human rights” group. In this liberal world where the rhetoric of fairness and equality saturates beyond meaning, they steal the language of social justice to argue that, far from being a class of oppressors, men, in fact, are the victims. They say they are victimised because it is really women, particularly feminists, who have the true power in society and that they, alone, must stand up to those (almighty, all powerful (radical) feminists) who wish to destroy and murder the male sex.

Here, I won’t refer to the mass of evidence which shows the systematic societal abuse towards women by men because others have produced overwhelming research and statistical analysis demonstrating it consistently. Nor will I cover the inconsistencies and flaws in the ludicrous, but dangerous, arguments of MPA groups where they declare war on women, particularly feminists, whilst disguising their intent by pretending they are victims of (female) aggressors. Again, others have it covered http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2012/spring/a-war-on-women#.Ua_3hsjnBR1 It is a rhetoric which blames women, particularly feminists, in a series of bizarre reversals, for seeking to name and end male violence against women.

The language we use matters. “Gender-based” violence is a neutral term. It implies that violence, based on gender, can come from any source, male or female. It fails to name the “agent”. It masks male violence, neutralises it and makes it safe. It takes away the truths named by radical feminism over decades. If we talk about “gender-based” violence, we give MPAs a space for legitimacy in which to peddle their hatred of, and lies about, women.

Let’s name male violence, always and forever, until the system of male supremacy is overturned. It pains me that so many fantastic feminist projects are neutralised by being called anti “gender-based” violence. We must never fail to name our truths. If we cannot name who is doing what to who, we cannot hope to put an end to it.

Women against male violence against women. There. It is written. And there is power in the writing of it.

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