Give me back my radical feminism!

I’m a radical feminist. I believe that the world would be a better place if we dismantled the patriarchy and the power constructs within and built a new society where people of all genders are treated equally with respect. I think that’s pretty uncontroversial.

I campaign on issues that include violence and oppression of women, sexual violence and misogynistic pornography.

 

Yes, things have improved here in the UK.

No, we are not there yet.

Yes, we still need to do this for women and girls worldwide.

 

But this is not just about women and girls. Men, yes, actual cis men who conform to binary experiences and expressions of gender, can be victims of the patriarchy too. The man who is ostracised at work for taking shared parental leave, the boy who is told crying is only for girls and the young man who is viewed with suspicion if he wants to work in a caring role or with children – they too can dream of a post patriarchal world in which their needs and desires are nurtured.

And this is not just about men and women. Trans people, gender-fluid, non-binary, a-gender folk (people of all genders and none) join me in this radical feminist space. Come in, pull up a chair, drink tea, or rant with me, march with me, argue with me. The door is open. Forget that. There is no f*cking door. There are no walls. There is no (glass) ceiling. This space, regardless of what some misguided, ill advised people think, this space welcomes you.

If we, the radical feminists, want to dismantle or deconstruct gender roles then how on earth could we justify leaving some peoples, some genders out? Why would we want to rebuild the wreckage into the same oppressive shape again?

Couldn’t the cis gendered radical feminists gain valuable insights from trans people who have lived experience being assumed to be a gender with which they do not connect? I am not saying that trans people must speak about their oppressions or that they owe us an education but, if they want to talk about it, we should listen and learn!

Some of you will know that I run a girls’ empowerment programme to help vulnerable young women find their voice. It is (in principle) a trans inclusive space but it is for self identifying females. So often I hear some feminists argue that to welcome trans people means losing these gender specific spaces and services and oppressing cis women further. To me the two things are not incompatible. In the future, when radical feminism has stopped focusing on irrelevant things, people of all genders and none will be treated equally. When this happens we won’t need generation girls groups. But, right now, with eating disorders, self harm, mental health problems, sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and abuse an everyday lived experience for young women this space is needed too.

I am not trans. I am not an expert on trans peoples’ experiences but I am frankly pissed off with being aligned politically with people who claim to be rad gem but, in reality, are adding to the oppression of some genders. The trans inclusive radical feminists (TIRF – how are we even pronouncing that and how is that meaningfully going to be distinguished from the TERF label?) need to find a new way to talk about our feminism. We need new words with which to align ourselves. Radical feminism for all!

#metoo

I have been watching the hashtag metoo gradually take hold on twitter with a stomach full of knots.

In one way I am pleased and proud of my sisters in arms for standing up to be counted. If we collude in a silent culture of fear and we don’t out ourselves and the gender based violence, harassment and oppression we face then how can we seek to make a positive change in the world?

And yet, it is not us, the so often silent majority, who need to make this change. It is not victims but perpetrators who need to change to make the world a safer place for women and girls. I fear for those too traumatised to speak out that they will feel condemned for their silence.

We do not owe you our stories of abuse. It is not our job to educate you. But there is no #itwasme trend and instead #notallmen lingers in cyber space as a perpetually bad smell.

#metoo in it’s bid to raise awareness of violence against women and girls misses the point. Yes, notallmen are perpetrators but yesallwomen experience harassment, abuse and violence. Whilst some women will tell me they have been lucky and never felt restricted by their gender even a tiny bit of questioning usually unveils stories which ‘were not a big deal’ or ‘harmless banter’ or ‘just his way.’

This year I ran a group for young women with learning disabilities. Every girl and young woman in that group had received either unwanted attention, unsolicited sexual images, verbal abuse or sexual touching. The youngest was twelve. And, whilst I taught them to speak up for themselves, get help and call out misogynists where they encountered them, I was grimly aware that they should not have been the focus of my attention.

For every survivor who posts #metoo there is someone who perpetrated that crime and violated that woman. They walk amongst us Hidden in plain sight. Change is possible and it starts with them.

#metoo