Listen up feminist comrades; we’re going to do something radical. I have been thinking about this for a while and have wondered how we can make it happen. Turns out it’s quite simple; we just need to start listening to ourselves. And talk to each other. In doing so, we’ll take a massive leap for feminism, and for each other. We will learn to trust our gut instincts and we’ll have a safe activist space; over the phone, via a text or DM.
I haven’t been an activisting feminist for very long. Active my whole life but not really involved. Coming together on Twitter with feminists from all over the world has been empowering and has made the struggle more real, but objectives a thousand times more achievable. It’s public and that makes it feel safe; we can trust each other through our shared experiences. There is no place to hide on a public forum, you are what you preach. But what if all is not what it seems?
Fems, we have to be aware that misogynists/predators/perpetrators are everywhere. They will invade our activist spaces and make us feel unsafe. Perpetrators do not present themselves as such from the off. They will endear themselves to you, support your cause, retweet every little thing you say.. They’ll show a united front with people you respect; by association you believe them to be a feminist ally. But what if they suddenly touch you without your consent? How would you feel if you were incessantly bombarded with calls, texts, emails and tweets? As women, we are programmed to believe we are somehow to blame for inappropriate behaviour if we so much as offer a predatory manz a rollie. But we can’t shake off THAT feeling. There’s a threat. It hasn’t found its voice yet but we’ve all been there before. It’s because we are women and we are at risk of being violated; at any time, by anyone. We need to listen to that feeling more, understand it, give it a name and call it out. But we don’t. Is it because we fear we won’t be believed? For my part, the last time I felt someone wasn’t being truthful, I questioned my own mental health. As a survivor, was I being overly sensitive? I didn’t want to say anything in case I prematurely jumped the gun. But, these thoughts were in fact adversely affecting my mental health by denying my gut instinct and not listening to my very real concerns. I had silenced myself.
Eventually I did speak to someone about it. And it turned out I wasn’t the only one. I was left feeling as though I should have said something sooner. But in feeling this way, I was victimising myself. It was not my fault that this person was hounding me. I may have giggled along to his jokes, I may have even flirted with him a little but this did not give him the right to impose himself on me. I reasoned that he had spoonie issues and as such, deserved my understanding. I didn’t feel able to express myself because of how he might be feeling but this was detrimental to my own mental health.
Perps/predators have a way of blending into the background. We reason that if they were a problem, we’d soon find out about it. If they happen to share friends with us, we are less likely to question their motives. But what if the connections you appear to have are an illusion? Online friendships/associations are easy to fake (as I have recently discovered). Someone starts following you on Twitter and they seem to share the same friends. They get involved in all your discussions, your friends engage them, everything seems above board. But then, when you begin to investigate the character, it transpires that nobody knows who they are. We’d all made the assumption that he was so and so’s friend. To discover he was as strange to them as he was to me felt like a violation.
I would like to suggest a solution to prevent this sort of thing from happening again. As a result of this incident, I felt unable to attend #Oct20 for fears around my safety. Safe activists’ spaces for women seem non-existent. We need more communication and a system where we can notify each other of any concerns we might have. A feminist mailing list, if you will. Somewhere we can discuss our concerns, regarding misogynists/perpetrators/predators regardless of their associations. We must pledge to hear out concerns, even if we do not see the risks ourselves. We must bear in mind that perpetrators are often charming, sociable characters and just because we have not personally seen anything yet, does not mean it did not happen. Support and discussion is a good enough place to start.
What are your thoughts?