THE DISRUPTION OF RADICAL FEMINIST DISCUSSION AND WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT
This blog post is a result of: observation and experience of online behaviour during the lead up to real life radical feminist activities, extensive discussion with radical feminist organisers of events in the UK and elsewhere in 2012 and 2013 and being an organiser myself.
A clear pattern is emerging in some countries in the Global North. The pattern is for political forces to unite in order to prevent, disrupt and lie about radical feminists coming together to discuss our political goals. They have correctly understood that, if we cannot meet, we cannot further radical feminist goals. They have correctly understood that women-only space is political within a radical feminist context. They have correctly understood the importance of radical feminists being able to define the boundaries of our political spaces, as is the case for all movements concerned with liberation from oppression.
The pattern itself is now taking a clear shape. The purpose of this blog is to define it. By defining it, we can identify how radical feminist activists can resist it in the future. Non-radical feminists would do well to heed the lessons too because, without a doubt, this pattern, if it continues to be successful, will be used to shut down all feminist, and other, debates about structural power. All that will be left will be discussion about individualism and the choice and rights of the individual – with the power structures that perpetuate oppression left unseen and undisturbed.
The repeated pattern takes this shape:
- Continuously telling lies about what radical feminism is, particularly on twitter, facebook, tumblr and specific blogs and websites, with a focus on distorting and twisting what those who speak publically about radical feminism say.
- The lies vary slightly but usually include variations of: radical feminists are killing, or contributing to the deaths of, transgendered people and wish to see transgendered people harmed or killed and/or radical feminists hate sex workers. If they can get away with it, they’ll also throw in how radical feminism is racist because it has a critique of gender as an oppressive tool against women (analogies are made between racism and “transphobia” (sic), merged together, and then repackaged as being exactly the same oppression).
- A social media campaign of email protests at venues with the aim of shutting down the meeting (quite often accompanied by a veneer of pretence that this is not their aim at all) is launched. The emails are characteristically emotive, contain smears, and lies and are powerfully shocking because they paint the radical feminist movement as being full of aggression, hatred and violence towards sections of society
- They threaten to punish the venue for hosting a radical feminist discussion “We will publically manacle you to their hateful ideology” (sic) a Male Privileged Agitator (MPA) blog told the London Irish Centre, shortly before Off To Work (the commercial sub-contractor concerned) pulled out of holding the RF2013 UK event
- When they have threatened and intimidated the venues concerned enough to pull out, they then crow about how it’s *radical feminists* who have made this happen – through holding “unlawful” (sic) events and by being consumed with “hate speech” (which they then struggle to demonstrate) or by claiming that every woman who calls herself a radical feminist anywhere on the internet has written the manifesto we all dutifully follow and that her associations with the event has led to this sorry state of affairs.
- They recycle these regurgitated lies and smears on a yearly basis, referring back to their past PR victories (agitators in Canada recently, for example, used the public words of an intimidated UK venue in 2012 against a Canadian based venue).
- Having successfully intimidated and threatened small not-for-profit/commercial venues so that they’d pull out of hosting radical feminist discussion, they claim the beleaguered venue did so because radical feminist theory is “unlawful” (sic).
- They bombard vocal radical feminist event organisers with threats of rape and other violence – this blog received several during the run-up to RF2013 in the UK
And so, the yearly cycle of lies, smears, threats and intimidation is complete.
WHO IS DOING THIS, HOW AND WHY
A PR machine in motion with strong, direct or indirect, political alliances between transactivists (these are people who support the individual rights of transgendered people above the right of oppressed groups to determine our own political boundaries, they are not necessarily transgendered people themselves), queer allies and their lefty, anti-radical feminist friends and other political groupings, particularly MRAs (or, as Ginny Brown describes them in her blog post “Male Privileged Agitators” (MPAs) ) :
(A piece well worth reading for other reasons and very connected to this pattern identified here). NOTE about the use of the acronym “MPA”: see bottom of blog post)
Transactivists act as “buffers” for male supremacist agendas by becoming the increasingly “acceptable face” of political opposition to radical feminism. It is clear that transactivists are being used by misogynists found within a variety of political groupings which actively support, and bolster, the oppression of women. The language of hate, the distortion of radical feminist politics, is indistinguishable in the rhetoric of those who oppose us, politically. For MPAs, transactivists are politically expedient. It’s very easy for men to paint a picture of oppressed and victimised groups being the root of the controversy surrounding radical feminism as opposed to the reality – which is that the very naming of our politics threatens patriarchy’s structure and practices.
There has been an increasing alliance between those who sit within the broad left and the “queer” agenda. In all these political spheres there has been a move away from understanding structural oppression and towards individual “choice”, “rights”, and autonomy since the rise of queer theory/post-modernism. The thinking has saturated it’s way through political movements and many women, active elsewhere, have unquestioningly put the “individual” and their “choices” on centre stage.
That agenda resonates with traditional right-wing rhetoric where it is argued that the “man in the street” (sic), that is, working class men, are able to “rise up through the ranks” (it’s all in the description!) and “make it to the top”, that is, are able to grab, for themselves, the riches that the rich already acquire through birth right. Although there are some isolated cases where this may have happened in order to prevent working class men’s revolts, the gap between rich and poor is increasing. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/feb/10/uk-super-rich-richer-as-majority-squeezed The poorest half of British people own less than 10% of the country’s wealth between them. Why? Because structural inequality perpetuates the status quo and this is backed up by successive government policies.
It seems the left can understand structural analysis, as it relates here, because men are involved in the struggle to end poverty. However, it appears that, within a contemporary political context, it is difficult for anyone, but radical feminists, to translate the structural inequality described with a class analysis between men and women. Instead, a raft of inaccurate political slurs are thrown in its place, leading to a groundswelling of resistance to radfem politics. Job done for male supremacy.
Among the left, “naming and shaming” tactics used against commercial companies have been effective. Socialist groups have, for example, named commercial companies involved in “workfare” (a UK government scheme aimed at exploiting and demonising those on benefits) and many have backed down. The same technique is being used against any venue which takes a booking from radical feminist organisers. Most venues booked, are small, commercial or not-for-profit ventures who do not have the resources to resist the levels of intimidation involved. In any case, we should understand that they have no reason to risk their business reputation or put staff at risk simply because a group they have no particular alliance with, wishes to use their premises.
When the left target companies/charities which engage in workfare, they have an agenda which is addressing structural inequality. When radical feminists are targeted, it is based on lies and distortions and is shutting down discussion about women’s structural oppression. Male supremacy in the left and right and queer-allied movements is exposed for us all to observe.
RADICAL FEMINIST RESISTANCE
Originally, this blog post went on to make tactical suggestions about how radical feminists can prevent the interruption of radical feminist discussions. I haven’t been certain whether to publish that part of the post so have erred on the side of caution. If known radical feminist activists would like a copy of it, I can send it by email. They are suggestions which have been successful in our recent herstory of activism.
NOTE: Ginny credits Max Dashu for the term “MPA”. Given this small, but organised, group of men are getting more vocal (and we already know that vocal men under patriarchy don’t have to say or do much to be taken seriously), I shall be using the term from now on. Max says: “I see MRA (male rights activist) as using their language, similarly to “pro-life”. It’s not about “rights,” but about preserving historic male privilege, and i call them “agitators” rather than “activists” which is a positive word in my book. They are fighting for the continuation of women’s oppression.”
FOOTNOTE: For those skeptics who believe that threats, intimidation towards, and lies about, radical feminists are our fault because of our politics, see what is happening now to feminists who champion having a woman on the UK bank notes instead of it being an all-male line-up. It’s difficult to think of a more mainstream feminist campaign which poses little threat to patriarchy’s status quo and, yet, feminists involved are targeted with misogynistic threats and intimidation. http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2013/07/after-jane-austen-announcement-i-suffered-rape-threats-48-hours-im-still-confident-tro