This is what silencing looks like

I didn’t celebrate International Women’s Day. I didn’t feel I had the right to. I’ve known for a while that maybe I’m not allowed to call myself a feminist because of the way feminism isn’t really much about real equality (justice), or hasn’t been for quite some time even though I’ve always believed it was my calling in life, to be a professional feminist, to ‘be the change I want to see’. The movement is so fractured and ugly, there is no solidarity and as I’ve said before, what are we without it?

I am trying to understand where I’ve gone wrong and coming up with a blank. It is my belief that I trust survivors, no exceptions. I stand by that belief, I put it into practice. Of all my feminist principles, believing survivors of patriarchal violence (entitlement that is positively encouraged by society as opposed to other forms of violence/’hate crimes’) is the most important and mandatory. ‘I believe them’ was not a new concept for me, my politics didn’t suddenly change for the better when I got a Twitter account; this is the truth I have been living ever since I escaped my own abuse. I have worked in refuges, I have worked incognito in the community, provided court based advocacy and accompanied survivors to the police station, the rape crisis centre, the homelessness office. I believed EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I didn’t ask for proof, I knew there would be many occasions where my severely traumatised clients would have to retell the events that lead them to the authorities. I became an advocate because I wanted to make that process gentler on the women who would be painted as liars and cheats and because they don’t behave like victims.

Trauma does extraordinary things to people.  Perhaps silencing is one of its most visible effects. When you are repeatedly violated and you’re not sure people would even believe you if you told them, you physically lose your voice. It’s not possible for a victim to issue a statement covering every last detail of their own assault as soon as it is over. There is a period of time before a victim makes a decision about whether or not to pursue a criminal trial and it is in that short space of time that we MUST believe survivors or we risk silencing them for good. Now, for all the people quick to defend their friends/partners against rape/harassment ‘allegations’ this past week, the ones who failed to comment on the survivors lifelessly falling away from Twitter, your actions have meant those survivors have probably been silenced forever, not just with perpetrators of the incidents discussed here but also for future violations). The processes we were muddling through on Twitter were radical because they have never really been implemented before; a survivor led process that would let people speak about their concerns, their highly tuned antennas picking up on ‘nuisance’ men (because we’re all repeat survivors right?) who it turns out didn’t just make one of us feel uncomfortable, rather pretty much every single one of us in the group. I see you all talking to these people. Twitter has effectively become a safe space for patriarchal perpetrators. Argue the toss all you like here, speaking on behalf of myself and advocating on behalf of the few people who stand by their principles, this is what has been achieved.

The system meant we could keep an eye on prolific perpetrators and warn potentially vulnerable targets. Just because you’re ok with sexual attention despite your own experience of patriarchy does not mean that other people will think certain things ok. So your partner isn’t a perpetrator of anything because you love them and they’re just not like that.. How do you know? You don’t.

A few months ago one of my own partners was implicated in a scenario involving male entitlement/privilege. I still don’t know the full details of what happened but I don’t need to, I believed the survivor. I still haven’t spoken to him because of how I was triggered by this. I am no stranger to my romantic partners being misogynistic with other women but also, from the few bits of information I was able to glean, she felt her personal space was violated. You set your own parameters; it doesn’t matter whether the other person had good intentions. You get to call your own violation and I will always believe you. It called into question a lot of uncomfortable truths about myself and the sort of behaviour I allow in my life but I’ve accepted I am somewhat shaped by the experiences in my life and sometimes, bad stuff is what makes us feel good. So long as it’s consensual. Imagine then being told to grow up and speak to your lover about the false allegations by a white woman you believed to be an ally these last few years. Now, she may have had ‘the best of intentions’ but in my brain, you tell me to ‘grow up’ or call me a ‘girl’ or assume that I am not a thoughtful and considered WOMAN and need you to make me think with your superior wisdom being the white saviour you probably are, is a huge trigger for me and one that anyone who knows me will testify is among one of the worst. I fell out with white feminism over that, it’s not minor.

I saw your threat re libel laws. How very right wing of you. I see you activists burying your necks in the sand. You’re not ready to tackle rape culture or violence against women; you fell at the first hurdle. Whatever else you may think of me, whether you try to control the words I utter with legal sanctions or think of me some kind of loon, you can never stop me from speaking the truth. You might silence me for a short while but I will come back with screenshots.

I have no allegiances with anyone; all I have is my principles and it seems once again, I am being excluded because of them.

4 comments

  1. Do not let them silence you, dammit. No one is ever going to agree with everything any of us say or believe. But the ones who we trust and who trust us will respect and continue to have faith in our mission and vision. Speaking out is a transformative process and once we start, it’s really hard to stop!! :)

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