The Women’s March and the Erasure of Women by @helensaxby11

Cross-posted from: Not the News in Brief
Originally published: 23.01.17

On Saturday January 21st the Women’s March on Washington took place in order to protest the potential effects the election of president Donald Trump would have on women’s rights in the USA. Conceived of by women, organised by women, networked and shared by women and overwhelmingly attended by women, the Women’s March became a chance for women worldwide to join in solidarity with their American sisters, and march for women’s rights in towns and cities all over the world. And this is what women did, in large numbers and in many places.

It is quite clear from the pictures that this was a women’s event, though it was by no means exclusionary – anyone could attend, but the focus was on women. In the UK for example there were many feminist and women’s groups represented:
Read more The Women’s March and the Erasure of Women by @helensaxby11

Review: How You Might Know Me by Sabrina Mahfouz

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 19.11.16

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 09.41.32How You Might Know Me is a result of years of creative writing workshops with women from the UK’s growing sex industry and Sabrina Mahfouz’s own experiences of working in strip-clubs. It is told through four characters: Sylvia, Tali, Sharifa and Darina, who each use the poetic form to tell their stories, be it through a traditional verse, or a more contemporary, free verse with punchy lines.

The collection examines “taboos, surprising sexual encounters, the politics of desire, the vastly differing viewpoints on sex work and most prominently, the status of women’s equality in the UK today.” What the collection also is, is inclusive and representative of women from different backgrounds and cultures.
Read more Review: How You Might Know Me by Sabrina Mahfouz

For the White Woman Who Wants to Know How to be My Friend: A Black Feminist Guide to Interracial Solidarity

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 14.11.16

A brief foreword: this is the conclusion to my series of essays on race and the feminist movement. Parts 12, and 3 can all be accessed here. The following knowledge was acquired at great personal expense. Use it how you will. Dedicated to every woman – Black, brown, and white – who has sustained me through sisterhood.


Whenever I discuss racism in the feminist movement, this question is invariably asked as a result: white women wonder “what, specifically, can I do about racism? How can I create solidarity with women of colour?” It’s a complicated question, which I have been considering closely for over a year now, and there is no one simple answer. Instead, there are many answers, of which none are static and all of which are liable to shift in relation to context. The reality of the situation is that there is no quick fix solution for the hundreds of years’ worth of racism – racism upon which our society was built, its hierarchies of wealth and power established – that shape the dynamic between women of colour and white women. That imbalance of power and privilege colours personal interactions. It creates the layers of justifiable mistrust that women of colour feel towards white women – even (perhaps especially) in a feminist context. 
Read more For the White Woman Who Wants to Know How to be My Friend: A Black Feminist Guide to Interracial Solidarity

When Friends Forget You’re Still Alive- the life of a sick person

Cross-posted from: bottom face
Originally published: 04.07.16

Every day I lie in bed. The TV chatters in the background telling stories I do not even listen to. The curtains swell like the sails of a yacht and the noises of the outside world drift in in a jazz breeze. Car doors slam, children holler and laugh, a mum scolds her child, a lawn mower hums in the distance. The noises of lives lived, so unlike my own it’s almost absurd that they should be so near. And I lie and I half listen, and I drift in and out of sleep.

I barely see friends anymore. Too many invites unaccepted, so the invitations stopped. Too many stairs, and hills and bumpy pathways on the journeys once-upon-a –time-friends take. Mostly I’m alone. Yesterday I spoke to a friend I haven’t seen lately. She told me a dozen stories about people she’s spent time with whilst she was too busy to spend time with me. “We’re going camping this weekend. It was just going to be me and John, but then I invited Tracey, and then Gemma, and Sarah, and now it’s just grown into an event.”  I wonder whether it ever occurred to her to invite me. She keeps the tent that I own at her house as she has more room than we do. The deal being that she can use the tent whenever she needs to.


Read more When Friends Forget You’re Still Alive- the life of a sick person

THINK OF ME AS LOVING YOU STILL by @_ssml

Cross-posted from: Fish Without a Bicycle
Originally published: 15.10.15

My second to last day on the land I threw away the black leather jacket that I had been wearing to shoot the Night Stage in for the last five years. A very persistent mother mouse had established a nest in an inside pocket and in the process destroyed the lining of my beloved (and iconic, to me) jacket. That jacket was one of the last personal items I let go of on the Land this year, but it was far from being the only. In fact, this year on the Land I ended up losing many things that I knew I would never see again.  I lost the labrys that I wore in the lapel of my jacket on Saturday night, my brand new Michfest hoodie, a one-of-a-kind hand crafted metal earring, a beautiful bouquet of feathers that a Sister presented me with as a gift of gratitude for my work, at least two lens caps, some brand new socks and finally the tent a friend had gifted to me seven years ago – the year my daughter came to the Land as a four month old infant. My tent was badly damaged by the aforementioned persistent mother mouse and a tree that fell on top of the tent, resulting in a ripped rainfly. The mouse came through the bottom of my tent and the tree came through the top. No, the tent was not tarped, I know, I know, I know. My point is,  there were few days that some part of my mind was not occupied by my relationship to the things I had to let go of. I was given plenty of opportunity to remind myself that the most magical, comforting and even practical of “my” things have the potential to pass right through my hands and that both possession and permanence are illusions of my heart and mind. Everything changes. Every single thing reaches a moment of completion. In big ways and small ways we are always moving through and toward and away from the things, the places and the people we have loved, cherished and tried to hold on to in our lifetimes. 
Read more THINK OF ME AS LOVING YOU STILL by @_ssml

Charlotte Wood ‘The Natural Way of Things’ at Mairi Voice

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 13.03.16

natural way of thingsI have just finished reading this harrowing and powerful novel.

Set in the near future it is about a group of young women who are abducted and imprisoned in an outback facility somewhere in Australia. They are abducted by a corporation – to be punished, to be silenced because they have dared to expose their sexual exploitation at the hands of powerful men.

They include a victim of a football-buddy pack rape; another is a “lover” of a high-profile politician; a woman assaulted whilst partying on a cruise ship, and a woman, a contestant on a TV reality show who is singled out for sex by the producer of the show.


Read more Charlotte Wood ‘The Natural Way of Things’ at Mairi Voice

In Praise of Older Women: A Love Letter to My Big Sisters by @ClaireShrugged

A disturbing trend has been established over the last few years – implying that, as women within the feminist movement age, they become less relevant. It is not simply unrepentant misogynists airing this view – although they are responsible for starting it – but rather relatively young and often liberal women who openly describe themselves as feminists. Kaite Welsh of the Telegraph branded Germaine Greer a “dinosaur”, suggesting that she “face[s] a slow and painful extinction.” Similarly, Jessica Valenti used her Guardian column to lament when older feminists “lose their way“, the implication being that doddering old dears like Susan Brownmiller are no longer fully aware of the world around them.

I do not dispute Welsh’s right to critique Greer’s perspective on gender. Valenti’s objection to Brownmiller’s comments on sexual assault is, in my opinion, perfectly reasonable. That being said, these criticisms should not be couched in ageist language. As Lorde says, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” In using ageism to reproach older women, younger feminists give tacit permission for men to do the same. There is nothing revolutionary or progressive about employing the same misogynistic tactics used to silence women.

Across Twitter, older radical feminists are slammed for being “anti-sex”, “fossils”, and “pearl-clutching prudes.” In addition to perpetuating ageist misogyny, these phrases are also symptomatic of intellectual laziness – challenge the ideas of our older sisters, not their right to participate in public discourse.
Read more In Praise of Older Women: A Love Letter to My Big Sisters by @ClaireShrugged

When women attack feminists – self-hate in a woman hating culture at Shack Diaries

Cross-posted from: Shack Diaries
Originally published: 11.01.15

As feminists, when we stand together to challenge the misogyny embedded in our culture we have learned to expect to face the patriarchs, the MRAs and the violence and ignorance of men. However sometimes we find ourselves confronted on such issues by other women who will side with the sexism of men. Women who will vehemently uphold, for example,  rape myths, to the detriment of every female victim of rape and actually – all women.

In a culture of misogyny in which they too are intrinsically and literally greatly harmed, this can be shocking to us all.

So why?
Read more When women attack feminists – self-hate in a woman hating culture at Shack Diaries

Navigating Sisterhood

Cross-posted from: The Arctic Feminist
Originally published: 17.12.14

Women are consistently held to higher standards than men are, even by other women, even by feminists. Its interesting because how I personally feel about that is two-fold. On the one hand I recognize the sexism inherent in expecting women to be pure, perfect, unsullied by fault but on the other hand I know that women are capable of change and how they think, feel and act about the world actually matters.

Karl Marx was a chauvinist who consistently mismanaged his family’s meager wealth – making them live in squalor and poverty while also impregnating servant girls in his spare time. He was a fucking prick, however very few people would sit and chastise this fucking prick about his personal life, his faults when discussing his ideas. They are irrelevant to the equation in almost everyone’s eyes. What woman of thought and brilliance can ever say the same as to her legacy?
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Feminist Witch Hunts, when witches hunt each other by @HoursofChaos

Cross-posted from: Shack Diaries
Originally published: 10.07.15

The silencing of women comes in many forms, but perhaps the most difficult to explain is when that silencing comes from other feminists. Other feminists you respect and share many of the same views with.

We need robust debate in feminism, we need rage, but when we turn on each other to the degree of personally tearing each other apart, then we need to get some perspective. We’re all still women; we ALL still suffer enough at the hands of patriarchy without torturing each other. And having a different view on a variety of subjects does not turn us into each others enemy. What’s so wrong with constructive criticism, debate and disagreement?

Wasn’t debate once called ‘healthy’ ?
Read more Feminist Witch Hunts, when witches hunt each other by @HoursofChaos

That’s just girls by @jaynemanfredi

Cross-posted from: Jayne Manfredi
Originally published: 19.07.15

It seems to be a universally accepted fact that girls will repeatedly fall out with one another throughout their school years and perhaps, beyond. I have two daughters, and in my experience, I can attest to there being much truth in this.  They talk behind each other’s backs.  They switch allegiance between best friends at the drop of a hat. They inexplicably blank one another. They take offence continuously. We’re told by wiser mothers (of daughters) and by our own mothers, that this is just girls. It’s just how they are. And there’s enough anecdotal evidence to more than back this up and so the maxim becomes self-fulfilling. We accept that this is the way things are, and consequently we often don’t invest the time and energy required into teaching girls to build supportive, caring relationships with one another.

Do we live in a world that teaches girls to dislike one another, from the off? We certainly live in a world where girls are raised by women who have absorbed the message that other females are competition, and that this is completely natural.


Read more That’s just girls by @jaynemanfredi

Trouble in the Sisterhood by @EstellaMz

Cross-posted from: Uncultured Sisterhood
Originally published: 22.02.15

Two articles that were published over the last few days, and the reactions that followed in their wake, are proof of backlash against the progress made by the women’s liberation movement. Whereas one was an open letter calling out the no-platforming at universities in England of some feminists because of their “unpopular” opinions, the other, related to the first, highlighted the ongoing erasure of references to women at women’s colleges in America.

Anyone who was shocked by the anger directed at the signatories of the letter has not been following the on/offline application of nearly every weapon in the master’s toolbox to silence women into submitting to male interests. This really wasn’t news – but of course it was shameful; the offense taken and ageism that ensued stuck to the book.

The other story captured another shade of arrogance and male entitlement. Apparently, at one of the women’s colleges, the word sisterhood has been replaced by siblinghood because the former is “exclusionary” language. There even is (or was) a petition to the school’s administrators to cease referring to it as a women’s college… because that is not “gender inclusive language.” Colleges, established through vision and hard-won battles fought by women for women, are now in the bulls-eye of patriarchal backlash.
Read more Trouble in the Sisterhood by @EstellaMz

Parallel Lives by @PortiaSmart

(Cross-posted from Portia Smart)

This post has been a long time coming.

As a woman informed by radical feminism, much of my activism and consciousness-raising has centred around the theme of male violence against women. My career has followed a similar trajectory and now my presence on social media follows the same path.

I set up a blog site to “write what I feel” and I did not intend for it to be a commentary on male violence against women. But something incredible happened when I wrote my first post on the subject. Women in my social media circle started to share their own experiences, I started to realise how many women were writing about male violence from a personal perspective and how profoundly powerful their words were. The incredible @EVB_Now established a campaign based upon the principle of women speaking out and challenging victim blaming. I found myself becoming a part of a group of women who refused to be silenced, who were not ashamed by experiences of male violence. We had found our voices and we were not going away.

I have experienced multiple forms of male violence within a continuum and I am in a place where I am able to speak (and write) about it without becoming distressed. This is why I chose to speak out. In the three years that I have been “online” I have been warmed and inspired by women who are breaking silences imposed upon them by abusive men, disbelieving family, minimising friends, a victim-blaming criminal justice system and an unsympathetic society. This felt like our time. But over the past twelve months I have felt a creeping unease. It doesn’t happen often but it can’t be ignored. It has been a drip-drip presence, so much so that I couldn’t pinpoint my discomfort until now. Women are dividing each other into categories: women “affected by male violence” = less than, women not speaking about personal experiences of male violence = greater than.

Women who speak about personal experience and/or who ask for emotional support and/or are in distress are cut off, rejected and labelled as “needy”, “difficult”, demanding” “attention-seeking” “damaged”. How is this happening? Why would women with a feminist analysis Other women sharing experiences of male violence? I recognise that women dividing themselves is nothing new. Living within a patriarchy means that women (even the good* ones), sometimes seek to compete, Other, suppress and silence each other in the hopes of establishing a greater position of power. Sometimes we also need to keep ourselves safe, and I am not criticising this. I am an advocate of firm boundaries to protect ourselves from harm. Male violence against women is stigmatised and the people who are stigmatised are women. We are expected to feel shame when harassed, guilty when beaten, blamed when raped. The stigma is real and powerful and keeps so many women silent. Why would we voluntarily share experiences of male violence when the impact of doing so is so great? Some of us don’t and that is OK. No woman should ever feel compelled or coerced to share personal experiences of male violence. But that is not what I am asking here. I am asking for us to stop attaching stigma to those of us that do. We are all trying to survive and live as best we can. This divisive process is often unconscious but it’s real and it needs to stop now.

The truth, the ugly truth about this phenomenon is that we our dividing OURSELVES. Women, ALL women experience male violence. Every day. No woman is immune to experiences of harassment, stalking, rape, violence, gas lighting and degradation from men. Male violence is on a continuum. We experience daily sexist and misogynistic aggressions on a micro and macro level. Our society is saturated in misogyny. To pretend otherwise because you don’t want to see it, feel it, hear it, or experience it is understandable but this is the reality.

The woman that had the most profound effect on me recently spoke honestly and unapologetically about the male violence she experienced in childhood. She spoke with conviction, power, strength, anger and passion. Not all women feel able to speak out and this is understandable. I don’t think it makes one a better woman or a better feminist to share personal experiences of male violence. But neither do I think it makes women less than.

We all want to live in a world free from male violence. But we don’t, we live in this one. And right here, right now we need to connect to each other. Sometimes women want to talk about their experiences, sometimes women need to cry, shout, scream. Sometimes women need to receive care and understanding from other women. We need to hear and support one another and stop this patriarchal lie that women who speak about male violence need to be pathologised or ignored. This is not sisterhood.

I recognise and empathise the need to distance oneself from our vulnerability to male violence. Have I enacted this same position? I think it is likely. I think I may have held thoughts disrespecting women in pain and it’s not good enough. This is the very definition of throwing women under the bus and it is the worst way to do it. We need to do better. We need to do better NOW.

 

*good/bad women don’t exist. We are women.