The #SharedGirlhood tag caused a ruckus on twitter. Again. I read the tag thinking about the biological realities which impact on all girls due to hormones and not just during puberty. Mostly, though, I read the tag thinking about the reality of male violence which impacts on the lives of ALL girls. I read it recognising my privileges as a middle class white women who had access to a good education.
I know the reality that Indigenous women in Canada are seven times more likely to experience sexual violence than white women. I know that Women of Colour experience more street harassment and sexual violence than white women, frequently at the hands of white men. I know women who are disabled are far more likely to be victims of domestic and sexual violence and that, due to funding, services to support the specific needs of these women just aren’t good enough. I know the reality of puberty is fundamentally different for women based entirely on access to clean water. I know that maternal health is one of the biggest problems facing women worldwide and that, regardless of issues I had with the NHS, my baby would have died from a stroke in large swathes of the planet. I know that my cousin and her son would have both died from complications of pregnancy. Poor access to healthcare is a form of male violence against women. It is as damaging to women’s health as rape and sexual violence.
When I read the tag, I was thinking of both the common experiences of all girls whilst acknowledging the differences: race, class, sexuality, disability. education, all impact on how women experience violence (and how often they are believed for being victims of violence). What I learned from the tag is that white women need to say we are listening to Women of Colour: that we do know that they are more likely to experience sexual violence than white women. And, that if you didn’t know this before, then you need to acknowledge that you have helped silence the voices of Women of Colour. Feminism is a steep learning curve and none of us are perfect. We need to stop reacting defensively when this is pointed out.
I also saw a deliberate attempt to derail the tag by the same group of people who attempt to derail much of the feminist activism on twitter. I do often wonder why, if the rest of us all are shit, this group don’t actually engage in some activism themselves. And, by activism, I mean: not just insulting and denigrating the work of other women. Activism requires positive change: not just trashing people you don’t like. It saddens me to see women who are trying to learn and be heard being silenced for not meeting someone else’s arbitrary definition of what “feminists” are supposed to think. It makes me very, very angry when I see women who claim to be feminists using misogynistic language to silence other women. If your feminism involves calling other women cunts or frigid or using sexually explicit threats to silence them, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself.
And, frankly, when a shitload of women are sharing personal stories of sexual violence and rape, you need to shut the fuck up and listen to them. Don’t whine about feeling excluded. It makes you sound like a narcissistic misogynist.