“What’s real is not scary”

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Listen Sister is one of my favourite songs from Dene artist Leela Gilday. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a video of her performing this song, but please click on the link as it’s such a beautiful song on sisterhood. The album Calling all Warriors is available on i Tunes.

Sister, we are stronger than we know.

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Listen sister, you know how I feel.

And, what’s real is not scary.

Unknown 1 Unknown

 

(Re)Creating and (Re)Defining Sisterhood Online: The Mumsnet Phenomenon

This is the extended version of a conference paper I gave at the FWSA (UK & Northern Ireland) conference: Rethinking Sisterhood: The Affective Politics of Women’s Relationships’

 

Mumsnet – we’ve all heard the name. It pops up frequently in the press as either an object of derision as that place full middle class Yummy Mummies who once harassed Gordon Brown about his favourite biscuit brand during a political webchat[i] or that “nest of vipers”[ii] who viciously bully any woman who doesn’t meet their “standards”.

Yet neither of these stereotypes addresses the popularity of Mumsnet with women across the UK and the world. Why is Mumsnet so popular with women across all classes, ethnicities, faith, sexuality and gendered identities if it is a space full of ‘bullies’? What draws women – a significant number of whom do not have children – to what is ostensibly a parenting site? How does Mumsnet get 60 million page hits a month if only women who care about biscuits or are bullies populate it?

The founding of Mumsnet [iii] is a well-told story across the media. Justine Roberts and Carrie Longton created it in 2000 after Roberts had a disastrous holiday abroad with infant twins. It was conceived as a way for mothers to share information about everything from holidays to infant feeding, car seats, and fashion. Since then the business has grown from a small organisation to a staff of 80[iv] with Talk boards which cover everything from current events, to domestic and sexual violence and abuse, feminism, caring for children with disabilities, purchasing a car and caring for fish. The webchats hosted by Mumsnet have involved everyone from Gordon Brown and the infamous biscuit question to Jamie Oliver, Nigel Farage, William Hague, Dawn French and Gok Wan.[v]

Mumsnet’s popularity is not because of the quality of information on the site but rather the members themselves who have registered for the free chat boards – a feature only added to the website by chance. It is the relationships developed amongst the women and how this has changed both the brand of Mumsnet but also how the women involved have (re)developed the theory of sisterhood, particularly outwith feminist discourse that I will discuss. This “sisterhood” is contested and challenged from a variety of sources – the members themselves, men’s rights extremists and trolls. Equally, many members would not recognise Mumsnet as a place of sisterhood – many would also not define themselves as feminists, further contesting the boundaries. The construction of sisterhood is both intersectional, as defined by Kimberle Crenshawe,[vi] but also anti-intersectional in that racism, disablism, classism, homophobia and misogyny are common across the boards. Mumsnet is certainly not unusual as a true cross-section of women will always involve both the negative and positive.

This paper is based on my personal experiences as a member of Mumsnet. I joined in 2007 following the birth of my second child. I had several interviews with a number of current and former Mumsnetters, whom I have chosen to keep anonymous in this paper. I then posted a request on my public Facebook account, in which I am friends with numerous Mumsnetters, asking for their responses to the issue of trolling. This self-selecting response is the first stage in a much larger piece of research which will include further interviews, as well as a large-scale survey of members of Mumsnet – as well as other online parenting websites.

Mumsnet both (re)creates and (re)defines 21st century constructions of the term “sisterhood”. The power of relationships developed by women whose only contact is online and through pseudonyms is surprising only to those who have never been isolated from their extended family and wider community. It complicates the division between “real life” and “online life” and how this division is based on fallacious assumptions of how women construct support networks, friendships, and the longevity of these relationships. We live in a culture where women are taught that other women are their worst enemy and one where competing with each other is considered normal. This is designed to erases male responsibility for violence but also ensures that women’s energy and work is directed at supporting men, rather than other women.

The very basis of Mumsnet’s success is women supporting other women and the power of women’s friendships online. This is why the media backlash to Mumsnet is both so obvious and so vicious. Denigrating Mumsnet as that place where women talk about shoes and biscuits erases the very conversations which make it a radical space. These conversations include pregnancy, miscarriage, infertility, bereavement, domestic violence, rape and sexual violence, child-rearing, caring for children or other family members with disabilities, education, healthcare and current events. These conversations – the sharing of information and support – give women a power denied to them by a culture that privileges men’s needs and desires above all else. It also develops women’s confidences in their own skills, as well as encouraging women to move outwith their comfort zones learning new skills, teaching these skills to other women and entering the public sphere.

There is a multitude of ways in which the women of Mumsnet support one another. One of the most powerful sections is the relationships board which features long-term support threads for women with a history of substance misuse, those who were raised by toxic parents, women currently living with domestic violence and survivors, and women surviving rape and other forms of sexual violence. This unconditional support offered by women contrasts with women who are apologists for male behaviour – those who are currently living with violence and not in a position to label it and those who believe in anti-woman myths propagated by men’s rights extremists. In order to offer unconditional support, women must start from the radical basis that women do not lie about male violence. As those working in the field of violence against women and girls are aware, believing women is a radical step towards sisterhood. It is a feminist position and there are contested spaces on the relationships boards where women who do not take the label feminist come into conflict with those who do even when offering similar advice. There are numerous occasions when women who believe feminism is bad for women define radical feminist positions on male violence as “common sense”. What is interesting is the ways in which these contested definitions of feminism, domestic violence and perpetrator responsibility have given women previously denied a voice a space where there words are considered worthy of response. For many women, this is a privilege denied daily.

This contested space is best demonstrated by threads about access and violent fathers – the feminist position on Mumsnet is that children do not need violent fathers. On the relationships board, children are classed as needing fathers but their mothers deserve protection from further control and coercion. Debates wage on whose needs should be prioritised: the mother or the children. Fragile relationships fall apart as participants tend to be in a place where personal experiences trump theoretical knowledge. Building sisterhood in such a contested space is difficult but women manage it – despite fears of their own situation, fears over giving another woman advice or support that might hurt her. Women on these threads are so very vulnerable and yet they reach outwith the limited time and energy they have to help women they have never met and likely never will.

The first thread I read on the relationships board involved a woman driving two hours in the middle of the night to collect another woman – a complete stranger – who need the space away from her abusive husband. This is not as uncommon a situation as you would think. We can all think of a million things which could have gone wrong here but the very success of the relationships board is that type of help: a woman dropping everything to help a complete stranger. More commonly, we see women sitting up all night with other women who are in fear of a violent partner, or whose child is missing, women who are miscarrying much wanted babies and women who have taken a pill to induce abortion. Historically, this type of support was common in many communities and it was a fundamental part of the second wave of feminism, but it is very different to online communities of women where the creation of a “perfect feminism” has created very rigid communities – some of which engage in abusive behaviour to other women as a way of defining themselves as “better” feminists. Online feminism is often hierarchical erasing the possibility of a sisterhood.

A section of the talk board for mothers caring for children with has similar stories of women supporting women. In many ways, we expect this of women living in these situations – the selflessness of the mother with a severely disabled child is a trope the mainstream media adores. We don’t consider the emotional involvement and time commitments these women put in to supporting other women. Women who are carers are far more likely to live in poverty than other women and have far more demands on their time, due to systemic failures to support them appropriately. Yet, these women give their time freely to support other women through a diagnosis of disability and then to negotiate the welfare system – a task which even professionals find difficult. These stories are replicated in sections for women who have had miscarriages, are dealing with infertility or suffered other bereavements.

Again, this idea of women supporting women is something we expect of women. Our welfare state is built on the unpaid labour of women caring for family members, volunteering in schools and hospitals, campaigning and fundraising for play parks and after school clubs. But, this labour is assumed to be done by ‘good’ women (that is to say white, heterosexual, middle class women) and there exists a hierarchy of women who do the labour and those women who are recipients of this labour. What makes the support offered by women of Mumsnet different is that there is no hierarchy: there are no women who do “good works” and women who must be “helped”. There are women who help women not because it is expected of them but because they want to.

This idea of a collective of women who have political power is very radical. Mumsnet The Business has built on the unpaid labour of its members to create an ethical, pro-woman brand. Mumsnet has successfully extended their brand beyond reviewing products to building a well-respected blogging network, a Mumsnet academy (although the classes are mostly London-based and expensive) and holding an annual award for family-friendly business nominated by its members.

Mumsnet has also given its members a political platform. The success of the brand and the support of the women for other women increased their membership dramatically. This mostly women-only space full of women supporting other women has radicalised large numbers who otherwise felt disenfranchised. These members have started the political campaigns for which Mumsnet has become famous: the Let Girls be Girlscampaign[vii] which targeted shops selling a sexualised vision of girlhood which included Tesco’ selling a pole dancing kit for 7 year olds.[viii] Mumsnet has also campaigned for a miscarriage code of practise to be implemented across the NHS because of serious failures in the care of women (and in one rather frightening story, a member on Mumsnet diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy in a woman who had been to A&E twice with bleeding and serious abdominal pain).

The success of these campaigns is built on the relationships among the women on the talk boards. This is best exemplified in the “We Believe You” campaign. This campaign started on the feminism/ woman’s rights board following numerous discussions of what constituted sexual assault. Women were invited to post their stories of “small scale sexual assaults” that they had not reported. This very quickly turned into a thread full of women talking about being raped, sexually assaulted as children and groomed. Many of the women had never shared their experiences before and some did not know that their experience met the legal definition of rape. This mass testimony of sexual violence was only possible because of the way in which women’s relationships exist on Mumsnet. In the end, there were thousands of testimonies made and one member made an informal survey to show the breadth of women’s experiences. At the behest of members, Mumsnet started the “We Believe You”[ix] campaign challenging rape myths in the media. They took professional advice from Rape Crisis and built a formal survey. The campaign coincided with the arrest of footballer Ched Evans for rape and the hashtag #ibelieveher followed. This campaign could not have started nor succeeded without the relationship between members, which was essential after the media started reporting on the campaign using women’s testimonies without permission. Mumsnet HQ came into conflict with members with the business brand of Mumsnet leaving members who had shared stories feeling misused. We Believe You brought a lot of publicity to Mumsnet, something that was not a positive experience for some women.

There are a number of campaigns started by members, which are not associated with the brand of Mumsnet. The Let Toys be Toys[x] campaign challenges gendered stereotyping of toys and has had success in forcing companies to remove gendered labels and the “pink/ blue” divide of toys commonly seen in places like Toys R Us. There is now a spin-off campaign called Let Books be Books[xi]. There are annual charity runs raising money for numerous causes. There is even a Christmas secret santa which started as a way of helping out members in financial difficulties but was extended to members who helped others. This was originally run by members but grew so large that Mumsnet HQ was forced to take over. The financial generosity of Mumsnetters rivals the emotional support and time they donate to other women.

By far, the most colourful example of the way in which sisterhood is created within the space of Mumsnet is Woolly Hugs.[xii] Woolly Hugs started out as a group of women knitting a blanket for a recently bereaved Mumsnetter. It has expanded rapidly to include knitted blankets for children in hospital, children and parents who are recently bereaved, and has links with a charity working with children with cancer overseas. Some of these women learned to knit, crochet and sew in order to participate in this piece of collective feminist sisterhood. This transmission of skills builds on a long history of women’s sewing circles and communal quilting as a way of building friendships outwith the male gaze.

The above does not mean that Mumsnet is a completely safe space for women. The open registration policy of the Talk Board means anyone can join and Mumsnet has endured numerous invasions of male rights extremists – Fathers 4 Justice being a repeat offender going as far as attempting to publish a libellous advertisement because of Mumsnet’s “gender bias”. The fact that women still do a disproportionate amount of childcare and housework[xiii] and that many of the members of Fathers 4 Justice have histories of domestic violence isn’t something their membership was willing to discuss. The male rights extremists tend to stick to certain topics: feminism/woman’s rights, parenting, and the relationships board where the revel in telling women living in violent relationships that they are over-reacting – the team of Edd and Bob being rather infamous in their anti-woman propaganda. Mumsnet’s hands-off approach to moderating the Talk Boards resulted in these anti-women posters being allowed to remain far longer than they should.

Larrygrills, a male member who remains despite his constant misogyny and gaslighting, does so because he posts just within the guidelines for the Talk Board. This allows Larry to suggest that women who have suffered birth trauma are over-reacting because he’s seen his wife give birth twice and she was fine. It is classed as “opinion” rather than gaslighting. Larry’s full posting history contains numerous statements minimising domestic and sexual violence and abuse and suggesting women are over-reacting to all manner of trauma. His posts do not include personal attacks and are viewed as fine. Larry is not by any means the only male poster to use Mumsnet to voice his anti-women rhetoric but he does appear to be the most dedicated. Conversations occur over and around Larry as women seek to minimise the harm he causes others but, again, this puts the onus on women to expend valuable energy pointing out the misogyny and gaslighting.

There is also the issue of what is commonly called “emotional vampires”, which are people who literally drain the energy out of you by coercing you to focus solely on their needs at the expense of your own.[xiv] Mumsnet’s reputation as a source of support for women – regardless of whether or not they are mothers – makes it a very visible target for people who engage in this behaviour. Due to the demographics of Mumsnet, the majority of “emotional vampires” are female.

The poster who used the pseudonym EthanChristopher claimed to be a teenage single parent who was trying to graduate in order to attend university. Many posters, including myself, gave up hours of our time helping EthanChristopher negotiate the welfare system, childcare, and student loans. She turned out be a woman in her mid 40s who was “bored”.

Dizzymare was a woman who claimed to be pregnant with twins with a young toddler. Much of her posting was about money with one of the more widely read threads on the subject of her “silly brother” only buying her a double stroller rather than a triple stroller. There was a clear demand for money and suggestions of how to manage 3 small children with only a double buggy were ignored. Dizzymare’s postings became more emotionally charged with stories of the miscarriage of both twins. Many bereaved mothers supported Dizzymare through her bereavement but she too turned out not to be real. Dizzymare has used the similar story across a number of other parenting platforms, including Bliss, leaving very distressed women in her wake; women who had literally sat up all night with Dizzy when she claimed to be miscarrying. The time and the emotional involvement in supporting Dizzymare was done by women who believed that sisterhood was essential – even if they would not have used that word.

You cannot tell if the person you are supporting is real or trolling and sometimes it is necessary to write a post for those reading it without commenting rather than the original poster – ensuring that accurate information about domestic violence, victim blaming or legal matters is posted. This is an easy statement to say but difficult in practise due to the emotional responses women have to other women in distress. SassySusan, who also trolled under alternative pseudonyms like WashWithCare, was a fairly vitriolic emotional vampire. She attacked women directly rather than the more passive-aggressive posts of Dizzymare. Perhaps the best example is a thread SassySusan started which, among other issues, suggested that women who don’t breastfeed deserve to get breast cancer and die. Infant feeding is a source of great stress for new mothers with both breast and bottle feeders feeling judged and unsupported. As such, it is an excellent source of entertainment for emotional vampires and other trolls. Yet, SassySusan was different to other emotional vampires as she had lost her only child to chicken pox. It is difficult to tell if SassySusan started trolling before or after the loss of her child but the simple fact is she was both a woman in need of support and a woman deliberately and maliciously harming others.

How should Mumsnet HQ respond to a deeply traumatized woman who viciously attacks other vulnerable women? Where is the line between troll and trauma? Do organisations like Mumsnet, whose reputation is based entirely on the women of the Talk Board sharing and supporting one another, have a duty of care to women like SassySusan despite their extremely abusive behaviour? Mumsnet made the difficult decision to ban SassySusan after she stalked and publicly doxxed another member off-board. Whether her behaviour was a response to trauma or a psychological condition is impossible to say but SassySusan remains one of many women who have joined Mumsnet with a view to causing trouble and who have revelled in the pain of other women.

Mumsnet may be an important place online for women but it can never be a completely safe space – and this is without discussing issues of racism, homophobia, misogyny, classism, and disablism of the members themselves. No site with open membership can ever be free of these harmful constructs. Where Mumsnet fails is that it depends on its members to educate others. At what point does a mother with a child with autism no longer need to defend her child to a poster insisting that children with disabilities do not belong in mainstream schools. How often do posts about golliwogs appear with people insisting they are harmless fun? How many times are there threads about applying for schools which completely ignore the fact that women living in poverty in estates with only one school have no choice. How often should lesbian mothers be expected to tolerate homophobia (the answer for one member of Mumsnet was several years of lesbophobic abuse before the other woman was finally banned).

The reality is that Mumsnetters who invest the time and emotional support for other women are dependent on Mumsnet being a safe space even though this safe space can never actually exist. The women who have used and built the virtual space and made friends within that space may not be representative of the women reading the posts on the site. It is also very easy to fall into friendship groups that feel exclusionary to newcomers. Mumsnet suffers the same problems with other women-only spaces not founded on feminist principles (and even then these are not always safe).

Equally, the way in which Mumsnetters have used this accidental space has changed the definition of sisterhood from women who meet in real life and have similar political goals – as seen in second wave feminism’s consciousness raising groups. – to a much broader definition. This definition is predicated on support for other women – with contested theories of friendship and sisterhood coming into conflict. In many ways Mumsnet has become a consciousness raising group, particularly for those women who cannot do “real life”. Coming together for campaigning does not necessarily result in the same friendships developed by women with small children. Both can be temporary friendships based on need at the point in the women’s lives but there is also a questioning of what sisterhood fundamentally means: is it unconditional support or passionate support as espoused by Liz Kelly. How do women negotiate online friendships, many using pseudonyms where it is possible to share everything without worrying about your next door neightbour finding out, when we are taught that women’s friendships aren’t “real” and that they are predicated on competition and hierarchies? How can we protect these safe spaces from trolls and men’s rights extremists without making it difficult for other women to find the support? How do we protect that sisterhood when it is under constant attack due to a patriarchal backlash? After all, much of the media stories on Mumsnet are about how horrible the women are – even the women knitting those beautiful blankets for children at York hospital with terminal illnesses.

 

[i]Brown takes break in biscuit quiz, BBC News Online. 17.10.2009(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8312215.stm) Acc. 10.9.14

[ii] Nick Duerden, “Why has Mumsnet developed such an awkward reputation?” The Independent 12.5.2013 (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/why-has-mumsnet-developed-such-an-awkward-reputation-8607914.html)

[iii] Mumsnet: About Us. http://www.mumsnet.com/info/aboutus. Acc. 10.9.14

[iv] Lucy, Kellaway, Justine Roberts of Mumsnet. 20.12.2013. FT Magazine(http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/aa1f78ea-66af-11e3-8675-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3DQ1ADIK7) Acc. 10.9.14

[v]Mumsnet Webchats (http://www.mumsnet.com/onlinechats)

[vi]Kimberle Crenshaw, Mapping the Margins, Intersectionality, Identity Politics and Violence against Women of Colour, Stanford Law Review, (http://socialdifference.columbia.edu/files/socialdiff/projects/Article__Mapping_the_Margins_by_Kimblere_Crenshaw.pdf)

[vii]Let Girls be Girls Campaign. (http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/let-girls-be-girls ) Launched 2010.

[viii] Tesco’s “Toy” Pole Dancing Kit. Mirror. 23.10.2006 (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tescos-toy-pole-dance-kit-646625)

[ix]We Believe You Rape Awareness Campaign (http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/we-believe-you-mumsnet-rape-awareness-campaign)

[x]Let Toys be Toys campaign (http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/)

[xi] Let Books be Books (http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/letbooksbebooks/)

[xii] Woolly Hugs (http://beta.woollyhugs.com)

[xiii] Susan Maushart,Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women, (Bloomsbury, 2003)

Arlie Russell Hochschild with Anne Machung, The Second Shift, (Penguin Books, 1989)

[xiv] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201101/whos-the-emotional-vampire-in-your-life

Real feminist sisterhood

It’s very rare that I share positive stories of women here. I spend so much time writing about male violence and celebrity culture that I forget to share the good stuff.

This is the good stuff: an anonymous donor gave a disabled, single mother 10 000 pounds so she can complete her master’s degree.

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The donor is anonymous so we can’t guess as to their biological sex. What we can say is that due to women sharing Diane’s GoFundMe (and whatever spiteful asshole reported it), a brilliant feminist is now going to be able to complete her Master’s degree in criminology to embark on a career helping young people who have been criminalized following substance abuse. This is real sisterhood.

Feminism is about liberating women; not who your friends are

On Friday morning, between getting myself ready for work and my child ready for school, I was tweeted an article on the BBC about a report from the Home Affairs Select Committee which recommended anonymity for rapists. I was horrified. Anonymity for rape suspects is incredibly dangerous for all sorts of reasons – starting with the fact that rapists have a huge rate of recidivism and a very low rate of conviction. Because of misogyny. Rapists commit rape knowing that the general public, the media and the police will label their victims a liar or insist she was partly responsible for the rape for the crime of being born a girl.

I was so angry, I started a petition. Whilst I was writing it, I saw a tweet with a press release from the End Violence Against Women coalition so I added their quotes into the text of the petition.

I started the petition because I was angry. I assumed other women would be angry too. I was a bit surprised at the low numbers of people signing the petition, but I hoped it would be a slow-burner with the lack of signatures due to starting the petition during a solar eclipse.

I was really shocked and hurt to discover on Saturday morning that the reason the petition wasn’t being shared publicly was because a high profile media feminist refused to sign and share it because she doesn’t like me. It’s a petition asking the Home Affairs Select Committee review their recommendation on anonymity for suspects in rape cases – a recommendation made with no research-based evidence, just vague worries about the reputation of rapists. It never occurred to me that there would be anything so controversial about this petition that people wouldn’t share it because they don’t like me.

Yet, this is what happened. The petition wasn’t shared by a high-profile feminist because she doesn’t like me. When questioned, the answer changed to “because it’s not well-written”. I wrote the petition in 15 minutes as that’s all the time I had on Friday to do so. I’m a single disabled mother – my time is limited due to caring responsibilities and my disability. I wanted to get it out as soon as possible to challenge the inevitable media coverage of men feeling sad for being accused of rape – as though the real problem in rape was the rapist’s feelings rather than the fact that a woman was raped.

Now, I’m hearing others say the same thing: they can’t sign because the petition “wasn’t written well” – an answer that smacks of classism and disablism. Under this argument, only women who have Russell group university education will be allowed to engage in public activism. After all, a rogue comma could destroy the feminist movement completely since bad grammar is a bigger sin that anonymity for rape victims.

As a disabled woman who has written at length on my experiences dealing with the brain fog associated with fibromyalgia, I find this idea that women refuse to sign my petition as its “poorly written” humiliating. I know that my illness has affected my writing and my ability to talk coherently (especially when tired as I start to lose words or use the wrong ones). I’ve been really open about how hard it is as someone who loves writing to be unable to put my thoughts out coherently: that what ends up on the paper isn’t what was in my head because of the way the fibromyalgia has effected the ability of my brain to communicate clearly. It’s also effected my ability to speak since I lose words and have huge pauses in between words (that I don’t realise is happening). I also find it difficult to process what is being said to me when tired: I know people are talking but I can’t hear the actual words and, even when I can hear some of the words, my brain can’t actually process the message. When it’s this bad, the only thing I can do is nap. This isn’t exactly conducive to mothering or being a writer.

Hence, the humiliation and hurt at being told that my petition isn’t shareable because it isn’t well-written. Because I have a disability that is slowly destroying my life. I know that it isn’t being shared because this particular woman doesn’t like me – not because of the writing style. But, it doesn’t make it less humiliating when people are being told it’s because it’s ‘poorly-written’.

Feminism is a political movement to liberate women. It isn’t about who your friends are or who is a good writer. It’s about changing the world to make it safer for women. That’s why I started my petition to the Home Affairs Select Committee. And, that’s why I hope everyone will sign it.

The Kindness of Strangers

There has been a lot of discussion on twitter recently about sisterhood and whether or not it exists or should exist. And, yes there are very serious problems within the feminist movement which need to be addressed but sisterhood does exist . We just need to work harder to ensure that it doesn’t just exist theoretically.

Recently, my sister suffered a catastrophic fire in her house and women (and men) who I’ve never met donated money to help her. I have seen women, and its almost always women, rally around others on twitter with money to pay for medical treatment, emotional support and physical support. I have seen this time and time again. And, we don’t recognise it for what it really is : women supporting women as we have done for several millennia.

I cannot describe how much my sister appreciated the kindness of complete strangers; how much I appreciate the kindness shown to my sister. People are still offering to help my sister. She has received so much. Instead, could you all donate to the  Ending Victimisation and Blame (Everyday Victim Blaming) campaign instead. They are a small organisation run by only a few volunteers and they really need financial support to keep fighting victim blaming within the media and helping women, children and men who’ve experienced domestic and sexual violence.

This is what feminism really is: women helping women.

I love Glosswitch.

That is all.

 

#TwitterFeministLovesIn Redux: Celebrating Sisterhood

Last night, I logged into Twitter to see the most beautiful tweets from @PlanetCath about sisterhood and friendship which, combined with an email from Caroline, made me cry. I am so privileged to call both women my friend. There are so many women I have met via Twitter who inspire me and whose love makes me safe. I love that The Women’s Room, End Online Misogyny and Ending Victimisation and Blame [Everyday Victim Blaming] are  campaigns set up on Twitter by women for women.

I get so caught up in the negative that I forget what a privilege it is to converse with so many women and learn from our collective wisdom. Our lives and our feminisms differ dramatically but the sisterhood still exists. We just need to celebrate it more. We need to celebrate our strengths and our weaknesses. We need to stop expecting perfection from our sisters. We stop pretending that feminism is the Borg where we all must think the same thing or we’re not feminists. We need to remember that feminism is fundamentally about loving other women and fighting for them.


So, I’m having a twitter #feministlovein today for all the amazing women who’ve inspired me, held my hand, made me rage, made me laugh, made me cry and most importantly made me a better feminist.

@AlexPolisTigers: for finding the origins of nincompoop for me.
@Alison Boydell: for her constant feminist rage
Barbara Carregonnen (@Carregonnen)
@CatEleven: for her beautiful poetry
Cath Andrews (@Andrews_Cath): for kicking my ass when I need it
Caroline Criado-Perez (@CCriadoPerez): for her unconditional support and kindness
Claire Moore (@cctheatreco): for her kindess
@Crates&Ribbons: for her kindness
Diane (@teenybash48): for her support
@DorienNiprock: for her kindness (and actually knowing my hometown)
Emily (@theurbandryad): for her kindess
@Fantome: for kicking ass
Flea (@evil_fi): for her kindness
@FrothyDragon: for being a true radical feminist
@Glosswitch: for her writing (and keeping #Mike occupied)
Grainne McMahon (@grainnemcmahon): for her unconditional support
Hannah M. Curtis (@HahhahMCurtis): for just being a real feminist
Hannah Mudge (@boudledidge): for her kindness
Helen (@queenofbiscuits): for reminding me that feminism is more than one school
@HerbyAttitude: for being a true radical feminist
Katharine Edgar (@KatharineEdgar): for her kindess and writing
Karen Ingala Smith (@K_IngalaSmith): for fighting for women every single day
@Katabaticesque: for her kindness
@LilRadFem: for her kindess
Liz Kelly (@ProfLizKelly): for living the beauty of radical feminism
Lorrie Hearts (@LorrieHearts): for fighting online misogyny
Lynn Schreiber (@LynnCSchreiber):
@LucyAllenFWR: for being the funniest MRE smasher ever
Lucy Bottomface (@LUBOttom)
@Marstrina: for her kindness (and sending love when Ballerina Cat died despite not getting pets)
M.K. Hajdin (@exiledstardust): for her beautiful art
@Planets_Blog: for her love
@Planet Cath: for her love
@PortiaSmart: for her love
Sarah (@sarrrrahhhh): for reminding me why I became a feminist
@sarahditum: for her support
@ScallopsRGreat: for her constant support and kindness
@Sianushka: for her writing and fighting cultural femicide
@Umlolidunno: for her incredible intelligence
Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX): for fighting for women every single day

And, @Zeeblebum, who is most definitely not a woman but who is true feminist ally.

These are some of the beautiful tweets that @planetcath wrote last night: 

Twitter #FeministLoveins : Celebrating Sisterhood!

I’ve written recently about the negative aspects of twitter with the online bullying, cliques and some, frankly, ridiculous behaviour.  


Sometimes I focus so much on the negative and worrying about being trolled that I miss the good stuff. This week I have had several really inspiring conversations with women on 3 continents. I’ve discussed pornography, reality television, rape, racism, children, cats and women’s literature. 

I forget what a privilege it is to converse with so many women and learn from our collective wisdom. Our lives and our feminisms differ dramatically but the sisterhood still exists. We just need to celebrate it more. We need to celebrate our strengths and our weaknesses. We need to stop expecting perfection from our sisters. We stop pretending that feminism is the Borg where we all must think the same thing or we’re not feminists.

So, I’m having a twitter #feministlovein today for all the amazing women who’ve inspired me, held my hand, made me rage, made me laugh, made me cry and most importantly made me a better feminist. 

Abi Yaffe
AFeministMother
AlexPolisTigers
Alice (@adarling575)
Alison Boydell
allthecake (@whoateallthepye)
Alyson (@textuallimits)
A Lone Parent
Andrea (@MsAndreaist)
Angela
Angeline (@Angeline1611)
Ann Tagonist
Anna
Anywavewilldo
Avital (@themamafesto)
Background Spinner
Barbara Scott
Barbara Carregonnen
Bee Jones
Bessie 
Benita(@e_benita)
Bobbi Oliver
Caitlin Roper
Camilla (@whodoesshethink)
Caris
Carol (@maggiefairy)
Cat Eleven
Cath Elliot
Cath Andrews
Cath
Cath 
Cathy Brennan
Caroline Criado-Perez
Caroline Crampton
Chitra Nagarajan
Chloe Miriam
Clara
Claire Moore (@cctheatreco)
Claire
Clementine
Crates&Ribbons
Dawn
Denise Marshall
Diane (@teenybash48)
DillyTante
Donna Navarro (@lexiconlane)
Dorien Niprock
dustsister
Elodie Pierce
Emma
Emily (@theurbandryad)
Emily Milton
Fantome
Farzana (@bananaharama)
feministavenger
FeministBorgia
FeministRoar
FeministaSista
FeministUK
Firestone Dworkin
Flea (@evil_fi)
Flumpmistress
FrauHupfdohle
FrothyDragon
Georgina Spiller
Gill
Glosswitch
Gobtastic
Goddessdevva
Gothicmama
Grainne McMahon
GrumpyOldBat
Hannah M. Curtis
Hannah Mudge
Hannah
Heather Harvey
Helen Lewis
Helen (@theowlgirl)
Helen (@queenofbiscuits)
HerbyAttitude
HisFeministMamma
Hypathie (@Hypathieblog)
JamButties
Jane (@ambitiousmammas)
Jane
Jane
Jane
Janey
Janey (@vegetarianjelly)
Janie
Jen (@JennNiff)
Jess
Jo (@PortofinoSunset)
Jodie (@MsJodieLW)
JudeinLondon
Julie Bindel
Julie
Jules
Katharine Edgar
Karen Ingala Smith
Karis (@Karis_Lily)
Katabaticesque
Kate
Katie
KBadlan
Kiramadiera
Kiran Chug
Laura
Laura
Leah Hardy
Lee Lysandra
Liberation Lover
Lilith (@GrimalkinRN)
LilRadFem
Lily Monroe (@pornfreeculture)
Lissie (@lissielouwalton)
Liz (@Lizj73)
Liz Kelly
LondonFeminist
Lorrie Hearts
Louise
Lucy (@Bang2write)
Lynn Schreiber
Lucy Bottomface
madoldbat (@scouserinlondon)
Mary-Ann Stephenson
Marie
Marstrina
Mhairi Macalpine
Meghan Murphy
Melissa (@theresthebs)
Melissa Wilde
MissAndrist
M.K. Hajdin
NattAndra
Nicola (@NicolaGilChrist)
Nicole (@ni c_jameson)
Nicole Rowe (@cellardoor790)
No Anodyne
Orla Moylan Hegarty
Philippa (@incurablehippie)
Planet Pavs
Planet Cath
Portia Criado-Perez
Poppy (@popbadger)
@psychoclaire
RadFemRusty
Rebecca
Redbullfiend
Reni Eddo-Lodge
R.K. MacKenzie

Roberta
Rose-Anna (@roseannastar)
RoseBlah
Rosemarie (@roseycameron)
Rowena (@RowenaMonde)
RubyFruit2
Ruth Jacobs
SallyAnn Betteridge
Sarah
Sam (@katedaddie)
Sara (@sararatee)
Sarah (@academicablues)
Sarah (@saraclarke)
Sarah Haughey
Sarah (@seja75)
Sarah (@sarrrrahhhh)
Sarah Jay (@mauvedinosaur)
ScallopsRGreat
Scarlet Wilde
Scousey (@Firewomon)
Sharon
Sianushka
Sister Trinity 
Slutocrat
SmashtheP
Sophia 
Sophie
Soraya Chemaly
Steffie (@selise3)
Terre Strange
TheTrudz
Tricialo (@trishlowt)
Truthtopower
TullyHerron
Umlolidunno
Vanessa 
Vicky
Victoria (@VABVOX)
Victoria Lucas (@radfemmamma)
Virginia Pele
Winnie Small
Zarina (@Zarinacc)
Zoe Williams

(Sensibly, when I started this list I only put the first names. I’m going through to add either last names or twitter handles so others can follow them too, which is what I should have done from the beginning:) )

*This is only a list of women from Twitter. The list would be twice as long if I included the amazing feminists on Facebook.

Mumsnet Woolly Hugs : Real Power of Sisterhood

The Mumsnet Woolly Hugs are incredible. Mumsnetters give up their time and their talent to knit blankets for children with terminal illnesses, families in grief and those just needing a hug. The talent and the kindness of Mumsnetters who are involved is so inspirational. They are incredibly generous. 

This is the mission statement from their website: 

The beautiful blankets shown through this website have been made by a community of Mumsnetters wanting to show their love and support to fellow Mumsnetters and their families facing heartbreaking and devastating loss. Some contribute by crafting, others by donating funds or wool, all playing a full part,  It is hoped that the blankets can offer some comfort to the families. If they get one ounce of love from their blanket then it’s all worth it. 

The blankets have come to be known as Woolly Hugs.

This is the real power of sisterhood. Not all the women involved would define themselves as feminists but this is what feminist sisterhood entails: caring for other women. 


I’ve included some images of the beautiful quilts knitted by Mumsnetters:

On Sisterhood: Kris Radish’s The Sunday List of Dreams

I’ve blogged incessantly about my love for Kris Radish’s My Elegant Gathering of White Snows which is fairly obvious considering I named my blog after it. I’ve been too scared to read anymore in case they aren’t as good. I was totally wrong. I’m about 15% of the way into The Sunday List of Dreams and it is fabulous. I’ll write a proper review later but I love this bit so much I had to share it now:

It is female communion. That astounding crossing of cultures and ages and time and place that wraps women together and makes them one. It is a holy moment, a sacred sharing of estrogen, a remarkable gift of love. It can happen in a public waiting room when a stranger asks another woman to hold her baby – her beautiful baby – when she needs to go to the bathroom. It can happen when you see a woman on a street corner and two guys are hassling her and you open your car door and she gets in without hesitation. It can happen when you see a woman at the grocery store crying because she is a dollar short and you pay her bill and carry her groceries to the car with kids and then slip her another 20 bucks. It can happen when you are at a play and that woman you saw arguing with that asshole man won’t come out of the last toilet stall of the bathroom until you hand her some toilet paper and then she cries into your shoulder and you give her the phone number of the women’s shelter. It can happen when your mother tells you about her first love and your heart stops because you realise your father was her second choice. It can happen anywhere – this female communion where women feel safe and close and absolutely as if they have touched a piece of heaven because of you. 

Is that not utterly beautiful?