Replicating damaging patriarchal language

If I were to discuss the following, you would assume I was talking about children:

  • If you are friends with her, we can’t be friends
  • I won’t talk to you if you talk to her

Instead, I have seen both of the above stated by feminists of all stripes. I’ve seen monitoring of people’s Facebook friends and monitoring conversations on twitter all used as evidence to discredit other feminists. Failure to conform to rigid rules immediately class a woman as a “bad feminist” who is then shunned, mocked and denigrated.

These are the techniques used:

  • Name calling or insults
  • mocking
  • belittlement
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Ignoring or excluding
  • Isolating
  • Humiliating

There is this assumption that is okay to engage in the above if your cause is ‘right’ or ‘good’. The ‘bad’ feminist must then be reminded daily of their failures and how much they disappoint other women – including ones they have never met for the simple crime of not being unnecessarily rude to someone they disagree with politically.

The resemblance to emotionally abusive behaviour perpetrated by men is so obvious and one that we’re not allowed to talk about. Because it’s apparently worse to point out when someone is mocking and isolating women than it is to engage in such abusive behaviour. Instead, we see insinuations of stupidity and removal of women from Facebook groups for asking questions or having the wrong friend.

I do hold feminists to a higher standard because we should know – whether we are radical, liberal, socialist, materialist or whatever – the statistical likelihood that the woman we are speaking to has experienced male violence and that they are living with trauma. Replicating male patterns of speech and emotionally abusive and bullying behaviour isolates vulnerable women and actively harms others.

We do need to recognise that some of the women who use these patterns are doing so because of the way they have internalised their trauma. We need to be able to challenge these women in a way that will not further traumatise them without allowing this behaviour to continue.

But, we also need to stop accepting this type of bullying as ‘normal’ debate tactics.  Posting private messages on Facebook isn’t appropriate behaviour. It is a silencing tactic: disagree with me and I will publicly shame you. Name calling, mocking and belittlement are extremely damaging to women’s mental health – many of us suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD but that isn’t an excuse to behave abusively to other women.

Isolating women from support networks and their friends is classic behaviour for a perpetrator of domestic violence and yet I see it all the time in online feminist groups: political disagreements used to defend the isolation of women.

We cannot liberate women from male violence if we use the same tactics to attack each other.

* A huge thank you to Cath Andrews who talked through this post with me and raised the issue of ‘failure’

Purity Politics and Trashing Women

The brand new A Room of Our Own website is up! And, it’s only taken 14 hours for the trashing to start on Facebook. I was actually surprised; normally it only takes about 2 hours before the “OMG you’ve let trannies in” brigade to start. The “OMG you’ve let TERFS and SWERFS in” hasn’t started, but I haven’t checked my twitter feed this morning. I prefer to leave twitter until after I’ve had caffeine. Plus, I’ve got most of them blocked on twitter – my Facebook wall is open so anyone can post on it, which has its own positives and negatives.

There comes a point when the:

A Room of Our Own is a network open to all feminists and womanists. If I wanted it to reflect my personal politics, I would have reblogged posts I agree with on my blog.

statement becomes tedious with repetition. Reblogging would have been cheaper, less time consuming, and result in less abuse and threats of physical violence. Of course, this is never good enough for some people. Building a platform to share the writing of women who self-identify as feminist and womanist was always going to involve complaints. I knew in advance that it would result in being crapped on. I’ve watched enough feminist social media campaigns get trashed to think it wouldn’t happen to me.

Sometimes I just ignore it, but I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of feminist purity politics. For the record,

I am gender critical.

I believe the sex industry constitutes state-sanctioned violence against women.

I think ‘mother privilege’ is a deeply stupid concept lacking any analysis of women as a class and it completely erases the multiple oppressions faced by many women, including racism, lesbophobia, classism (in materialist sense) and disablism.

White woman who say that misogyny is tolerated when racism isn’t are perpetuating white supremacy. Being a feminist doesn’t magically cure you of socialisation within a white supremacist, capitalist-patriarchy.  It’s not only possible to be a feminist AND racist, it’s pretty much a given (and, no, I don’t exclude myself from this).

Womanism is the logical consequence of a mainstream feminism which erases the voices of othered women.

Men can’t be feminists.

Feminism is about the liberation of women

If you’ve read my blog, you’re probably familiar with my stance on these issues. Hell, the latter half of the above shouldn’t even need to be said.

What I rarely write about is my loathing of feminist purity politics. No woman is born a perfect feminist and I have no time for anyone who thinks they were born perfect.

I would have ignored the most recent criticism of me as a shit feminist for promoting the writing of feminists/womanists that other feminists hate had it not been for the spate of unnecessary twaddle on Facebook recently.  My FB wall is full of posts by women saying “X said this about me” and “Y said that about D” and “you won’t believe what T said about B in group G”.

Frankly, I experienced less ridiculousness in high school – despite being the bullied nerd girl with no real friends for most of it. We absolutely need to be having critical conversations about theory and practise but it doesn’t need sub-tweeting or cryptic posts on FB.

Purity politics only reinforces patriarchal silencing of women. A feminism that involves women too afraid to speak out for fear of being trashed for not being “good enough” isn’t a feminism I want to be part of. No woman is owed an answer to a question they ask other feminists. No woman should be shamed for making compromises in their feminism in order to survive in a white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.

If you don’t like the way one woman is engaged in feminist activism, then do it yourself. Complaining that other women are doing it “wrong” is intellectually lazy.

I have lots of friends on FB who cover the whole gamut of feminism. I’ve never felt the urge to post on someone’s wall “YOU’RE WRONG” despite disagreeing with them completely. Because it’s bloody rude. It’s quite possible to have critical discussions about feminist theory without subtweeting and cryptic FB posts. It’s possible to have these discussions without resorting to personal insults and snide remarks. It’s possible to hold disagreements without dragging other people into it. Screen-capping posts from one FB group to another is inherently anti-feminist and violates all the rules about safe spaces.

All women are living with the trauma of male supremacy and we will all replicate the same heteronormative, white supremacist patriarchal structures because socialisation is incredibly powerful. A little bit of recognition and some basic kindness to other women wouldn’t go amiss.

I know this post will loose me friends, but I wouldn’t tolerate this behaviour from my children. I’m certainly not going to accept it from adults.

 

SHINY NEW A ROOM OF OUR OWN HERE

 

#ReadWomen and my erasure of BAME women writers

I’ve been reading books only written by women since 2011 following a conversation on cultural femicide on Mumsnet. There were lots of recommendations for writers I’d never come across: Barbara Kingsolver, Andrea Levy, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Kate Mosse, Granted,  this was because I was mostly reading mysteries. My book shelves are full of Val McDermid, Patricia Cornwall, Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen, but the majority of the books were written by men.

The books I’ve read over the last five years have been absolutely incredible and I’m so glad I started. It wasn’t until I read some tweets by Samantha Asumadu a few weeks ago that I started to think about how many BAME women writers I had read. So I did what all book nerds do and tried to remember high school math. These are stats:

2011: 16%

2012: 19%

2013: 8.8%

2014:  14%

2015: 18%

Had you asked me 3 weeks ago, I’d have said that at least 40% of the books I was reading were by BAME women.

I’d like to say this is because once I find an author I like, I read everything they’ve written which is why my bookcases are full of Meg Cabot, Agatha Christie, Charlaine Harris and Janet Evanovich but you can see the pattern there too.

I suppose it is rather like the research onto everyone assuming women speak more than men when it’s the exact opposite. I made the assumption that my reading patterns didn’t reflect white supremacist cultural practises. It took me two weeks to decide to write this as I was embarrassed, which is a stupid reason not to write.

My goal this year was to read 100 books written by women. So far, I’ve read 44. I’m changing my goal: I’m still hoping to read 100 books but 40% of those have to be by BAME women. Next year my goal will be 50%.

 

Children banned from school fair for being poor

A primary school in Flushing, Queens has prevented 100 of their students from attending a school carnival hosted by the PTA because the kids’ parents did not pay the $10 fee. Instead of spending 45 minutes playing on bouncy castles and inflatable slides and eating popcorn, the 100 kids were stuck inside the school auditorium watching Disney movies.

The New York Post claims that the carnival was a fundraising activity hosted by the PTA during school hours but the decision to include children was made by the school principal. The PTA raised $2000 – £3000.

Even if these were the children of millionaires who were too lazy to pay, these children didn’t deserve to be isolated and humiliated the way they were. No child deserves to be treated this way.

The fact is, though, that these children were mostly from migrant Chinese families living in extreme poverty. They didn’t pay because $10 was needed for groceries and rent. And, any adult with an ounce of compassion should know that. None of the adults in this situation behaved appropriately. Even if the decision was the principals, the teachers and members of the PTA should have stood up to her. Other parents should have stepped in and raised a stink.

All schools are chronically underfunded and the situation for poor neighbourhoods in the US is catastrophic. Fundraising for schools is absolutely necessary but putting fundraising above the emotional wellbeing of children is just disgusting.

I’ve been thinking about this since I first read the article this morning and I just can’t get the image of 100 kids shoved in an auditorium being punished for being poor out of my head. The distress and the heartbreak of children too young to understand why they were being punished. I just don’t understand how any professional or parent could sit back and watch this without standing up for those kids.

I have to ask if those children would have been excluded if they were mostly white.

 

 

 

 

Disney is making a movie about a white dude colonising Sudan for his daughter

When Media Diversified  tweeted out the article “DISNEY IS MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT A WHITE DAD DECLARING HIS DAUGHTER THE #PRINCESSOFNORTHSUDAN.“, I had to read it twice just to make sure I was quite following the conversation: A man wants his daughter to feel like she’s a real princess and colonised a piece of the Sudan to make her one. And, he actually did it. Instead of pointing out, ya know, the racism, Disney is going to make a film about a Daddy making his little Princess a Princess by stealing someone else’s land.

I don’t really have any words to accurately express how horrific this is: the celebration of colonialism and imperialism as good parenting makes a mockery of everything.

Just read this: DISNEY IS MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT A WHITE DAD DECLARING HIS DAUGHTER THE #PRINCESSOFNORTHSUDAN.

BEEM: We’re no longer allowed to talk about poor people in social housing because it hurts other people’s feelings.

BEEM is the umbrella group registered tenants associations in Edinburgh & Lothians, which forms part of the tenant participation strategy of  the Scottish Government. I hadn’t ever heard of  them before but they were offering free lunch to members. And, seriously, who turns down free lunch?

It was tedious.

Free lunch did not even remotely compensate for the tediousness, despite being excellent and involving cake.

The first two hours were presentations on why the Scottish government came to develop a national strategy on tenant participation and the achievements therein. The information was interesting but not what I had expected from the blurb in the email. I wanted more information on how BEEM could support local tenants’ organisations; not a history of Scottish government legislation.

There were lots of complaints about how few tenants organisations showed up to this meeting. But, it was on a Thursday. The fact that people in social housing might have actual jobs that they can’t take time off for free lunch events seemed to have been missed by a number of people paid to be there. And, we won’t even go into the issue of caring for children or family members with disabilities. That being a barrier to people (read women) participating seem to have missed everyone completely. Yes, there is some funding for childcare for these events but BEEM didn’t include any suggestion of potential childcare in their email invite. And, really, when was the last time a local authority paid for a carer so that a person (read woman) could attend these meetings safe in the knowledge that appropriate support had been covered for those they care for?

There was also no real discussion of literacy or language issues being a barrier to tenant participation in their community organisations, at the city, regional and national level. When I raised it, everyone pooh-poohed the suggestions saying that all Edinburgh council documents were available for translation. How this is meant to help people who are functionally illiterate went unanswered; as did my point that not everyone was comfortable accessing translation service via the council for numerous and valid reasons (and as someone who speaks English as a first language but with a ‘foreign’ accent, I can’t imagine how much patronising “support” those who speak English as a second language get from local employees. More than one has heard my accent and done the whole talking in a loud voice very slowly routine.)

The lack of recognition of just how severe these barriers can be for tenant participation was evidenced by an employee of a local housing association who thought that tenant at community level could be increased by holding meetings on evenings and weekends. My hand shot straight up in the air and I went straight through the “working/caring” commitment roll call. This was met by blinking.

The final note was a discussion on a desire for a major cultural shift to get people into renting properties rather than home owning. Because too many people equal social housing with poverty and that is just too embarrassing for some social housing tenants. After all, who wants to be poor? Granted, people who are poor don’t really get a choice in this but BEEM weren’t overly concerned with this somewhat large section of social housing tenants. There was no discussion of fact that places like Germany and Canada with huge rental markets also invest in pension funds negating the need to depend on a house to fund old age.

Personally, I’ve never understood the logic of home owning as a retirement fund. If your house is your investment for your old age, then surely you need to sell it when retired? Having no pension but a house you want to pass on to your children as an inheritance makes no financial sense to me. But, heh, I’m poor and will never own a home. so what the hell do I know?

It’s safe to say I scurried out as soon as it was over and won’t be going back. There may be a huge stigma attached to being poor and living in social housing in this country but that isn’t the fault of the people living in those conditions. It’s the fault of government policy, media coverage and people who think it’s more important to pretend that poor people don’t live in social housing . So that other people living in social housing don’t get their feelings hurt by having to recognise poverty in their neighbours.

Between this and the fucking appalling presentation by Police Scotland on internet safety for children this week, the revolution can’t come soon enough. And, I’m not having Police Scotland or BEEM along to mine.

We are not penguins. Cute and cuddly is not an excuse for genocide.

 

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This very brief article is doing the rounds of twitter today:

Ex-Nazi ‘bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ asks for ‘forgiveness’

Lueneburg (Germany) (AFP) – Former SS officer Oskar Groening, known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, admitted at his trial Tuesday to “moral guilt” over the mass murder at the death camp and asked for “forgiveness”.

“For me there’s no question that I share moral guilt,” the 93-year-old told the judges, admitting that he knew about the gassing of Jews.

“I ask for forgiveness,” he told the court, attended by Holocaust survivors. “You have to decide on my legal culpability.”

You’d think a fairly straightforward case of criminal liability for genocide, but no. Apparently, old people are cute and cuddly and therefore not liable for their actions:

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Second wave feminism and racism

Erasing women of colour from their participation in the second wave feminist movement is racism.

Claiming racism didn’t exist in second wave feminism is racism.

It is entirely possible for both statements to be accurate. Claiming that one is true and the other is not is also racism.

Why don’t we talk about bad fathers?

This is an old post that I meant to expand but didn’t:

 Today, Giles Fraser wrote about the ways in which mothers fuck up their children. Granted, he briefly mentions fathers but, mostly, Fraser blamed women for not being ‘good enough’. At no point does Fraser mention the role of fathers in raising children or ‘fucking them up’. Fraser ignores the reality of male violence against women and children within the home that has a serious detrimental effect on children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Why are mothers always to blame when it is men who commit the vast majority of violence within the home? Children experience domestic violence at the hands of their fathers both as victims and as witnesses. It is fathers who sexually assault and rape their children. It is mostly fathers who refuse to financially support their children preferring instead to allow them to live in poverty to punish the mother and it is fathers who kill their children to punish the mother. Why do we blame mothers for not being “good enough” when it is fathers who are the mostly like to abuse children – physically, emotionally, and sexually. Why don’t we talk about bad fathers?

 

Trashing Boxing Day sales ignores structural poverty within the capitalist-patriarchy

My FB and twitter feed are full of people commenting that they wouldn’t dream of going to the Boxing Day sales – just as it was on Black Friday. I can understand the desire to comment on rampant consumerism that our capitalist-patriarchy is predicated on, but targeting the people buying in these sales is not appropriate because it completely ignores the issue of poverty.

I believe that the patriarchy will not be smashed unless we also destroy capitalism. There is no way to make capitalism ‘fair’ – it will always be predicated on the exploitation of the unwaged labour of women as carers for children and family and the the labour of people who live in “non-industrialised/non-Western” (or whatever othering term is being used this week).

Advertising makes us believe we are shit parents for not buying our kids the must-have toys of the season. We know it’s a scam to make rich men richer and that our kids won’t be scarred for life if we don’t buy them the toy, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t buy the toys because we don’t want our kid to be the one missing. As a single parent, I’ve always shopped in the sales. This is why we have the entire first edition of the Lego Harry Potter castle (75% off at Tescos), Playmobil school (50% off), pink micro-t scooter (25% off plus free delivery but only if you get the pink one) and numerous Barbies, Polly Pockets and My Little Ponies (both the branded and non-branded ones). Did I need to buy these for my daughters as a single parent? No. Did I still line up on Boxing Day, first day of the annual Playmobil sale at Toys’R’Us ( 40% off & if you spend £40, you get a ‘super’ set worth £20 free!) and Black Friday. You betcha.

They didn’t make me a better mother and they didn’t compensate for my eldest daughter’s father being a dick and either failing to even make contact at Christmas (having not paid child support all year) or sending her a puzzle for 18 month olds when she was 6. I still shopped on those big sales day because I didn’t want my kid to be the one at school who didn’t have a gazillion presents to talk about. And, I know most of these are made by people, including children, who are making less than a pound a day and frequently live without clean water and sanitation. It feels shit being in this position but I’m very lucky compared to many single parent households as I never lived under the poverty level.

So many women, and it almost always women, live in poverty because men refuse to financially support their children and the state colludes with these men by allowing them to perpetuate financial child abuse. The state, and increasingly NGOs, collude with multi-national corporations forcing huge swathes of the population of the planet into poverty with farm subsidies in ‘industrialised’ countries, commodifying water, running a “war on drugs” when we have a worldwide shortage of medicinal morphine & have destroyed the cash crops of indigenous famers, and denying workers a living wage (whether they be living in a slum in India or in London).

Capitalism requires people to live in poverty in order to continue. We need to challenge the corporations like Apple (I say typing on my new Apple computer bought on credit card as my old one was dying) who build their products in inhumane conditions or Nestle, who continues to promote their formula in areas with no access to clean water despite the fact that this actively kills babies, or any company who participate in the arms trade – all of whom are culpable in mass genocide.

Yes, there are many people buying in the sales who are ‘middle class’ but let’s talk about why they feel the need to line up at Next at 4 in the morning  for sales. Are they buying work clothes that they can’t afford at normal prices? Buying bags to make them look ‘professional’ at job interviews? Clothes for the kids to wear on weekends (since school uniforms are more expensive because it forces you to buy two sets of clothes)? School shoes which are grossly over-priced and completely impractical for girls to play in? Are they buying that TV because it’s the only form of entertainment they have?

Instead of denigrating people who buy at these sales, let’s talk about the capitalist-patriarchy, consumerism and poverty. Let’s examine why it’s considered acceptable to denigrate those who shop on Boxing Day but not those who line up in the week before Christmas spending thousands to have the Perfect Christmas. After all, spending hundreds on one toy the week before Christmas is as damaging to the planet as it is to spend 1/2 on the same toy on Boxing Day.