#SharedGirlhood

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.

8 thoughts on “#SharedGirlhood”

  1. Thank goodness for your response to the ruckus. I saw the hashtag as sharing experiences – many rang true for me. Those that didn’t still came from the same root of patriarchal VAWG. Do you think the concept of Sharedgirlhood made marginalised women invisible in some way?

    1. It may not have made marginalised women feel invisible but it did. We need to reflect on that and work out ways to talk about shared girlhood experiences that encompass marginalised women as well. I wonder if that tag would have been accepted if one of the first few tweets was acknowledging that women of colour experience sexual violence at the hands of men at much higher rates than white women.

  2. ‘To believe we may be an exception to men’s violence or men’s system simply because of access to money and education, is to fail to understand completely how men’s violence against women operates. Money and education, in and of itself, does not protect a woman from being raped by a man, owned by a man, impregnated, beaten or killed. Fame and popularity does not protect women from being raped or killed either. Only men collectively, as a class, benefit directly from wealth, education, high economic status and fame. It directly increases their power over women, it increases the power of all men over women. They are the owners of the status. Women are never middle class, but the slaves and offspring of the slaves of middle class men.

    Besides, all women are disadvantaged by this system because it divides all women. The whole point of men creating different classes of women is to create an illusion of difference in status between us so we turn against ourselves instead of men; and foster the belief of exception to patriarchy through tokenism – that it’s possible to get out of it by being in the middle of its power (or something). Only the opposite is true: the closer you go to men and men’s power system, the more colonised, possessed and violated you will be, both psychically and sexually. It is one of the most efficient way of killing feminism off women: to persuade that some of us aren’t affected, that some of us aren’t so concerned by the effects of men’s violence, it’s more about other women over there who have it all bad, what should we complain about it wasn’t that bad for us. We’re educated. We’re not poor. Our parents took us for holidays. And this is a mindfuck because it gives an illusion of good treatment and prevents from identifying the violence and abuse. when behind you may have been raped by your uncle or father and psychically tortured by your family for decades.’ http://witchwind.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/piv-is-always-rape-ok/#comment-638

    Hope that helps.

  3. Yes. I think we do need to reflect on how this hashtag might be seen to certain experiences invisible. I agree that it might have been useful, more inclusive if it had somehow acknowledged varying ways in which things like race, poverty, disability, etc intersect with male oppression – as a white middle class woman, I acknowledge this is easily overlooked. But nevertheless, there was something so many of those who posted had in common as girls/women, and in a way, by definition, that was what the hashtag was about.
    Most of the ruckus seemed to me to less about this (although it is incredibly important) than about a group of people ambushing a discussion for no other reason than to ambush it, and use it as an opportunity to move the discussion away from girlhood experiences.
    Thanks for raising this – Feminism is always a steep learning curve.

  4. Pardon, but you don’t seem to understand the history behind it…

    It was originally posted in May by “smashesthep” (who’s a known Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminist) to “school” Mia McKenzie (a cisgender woman of color who posted “The Myth of Shared Female Experience and How it Perpetuates Inequality” to Black Girl Dangerous). Then, Victoria Brownsworth (another Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminist) claimed it and started promoting it as her own hashtag.

    Rightly so, women of color have been a bit miffed by the appropriation of many experiences that disproportionately affect them.

    -Add on how the hashtag was intended to “school” a woman of color on her own perception of girlhood.

    -Add on transphobic second wavers who make posts about trans people’s “falsehoods” (as opposed to girlhoods).

    And can you not see how maybe a few minority women would be rightly offended? A word of advice to anyone posting to #sharedgirlhoods: If it’s supposed to be about experiences of girlhood, then post experiences of girlhood. Don’t erase and marginalize others’ experiences of girlhood.

    1. Actually, I did know the history and if you had read the tweets I had posted at the bottom of the blog, you will have noticed that I did include the relevant criticisms of women of colour. You have ignored the women of colour who posted on the hashtag sharing their experiences of sexual violence. Or, do their experiences not count? Hashtags take on a life of their own. Frequently, no one knows who started them. People post because it has meaning to them. People were posting their experiences of sexual violence growing up as a girl. Don’t they count? Why are their voices not considered important?

      And, frankly, considering the abuse Victoria Brownworth gets on a daily basis – the rape and death threats – it’s somewhat, shall we say ironic, that you want to silence her. Or do you think that she deserves them?

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