Helen Lewis

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We need to talk about the commentariat

I write this not for the Brexit ate my braahn baby crowd but for those of us who are willing to admit harsh truths in order to effect change. To know what it is we must do for the future we learn about the past and study trends so we can be better prepared for what’s coming. You don’t need an academic record in order to observe how the world is affected by narratives however, especially if you are burdened by unspoken rules placing you at various intersections of oppression, you experience them through social inequality. Speaking for myself I have been a keen observer of all things social and have been since I studied sociology at high school. It informs my interactions with the world. I never anticipated the backlash though, I had expected some resistance but not on the scale I received and not from the people I thought I could trust, the Guardian types keen on saving us all from ourselves.

When you learned about the Holocaust did you stop to wonder as I did, how so many were organised and in such a short period of time, carted off to their deaths without so much as a whimper from their white German neighbours? Did you marvel at the breathtaking ignorance of the allies who were allegedly unaware of the camps until it was almost over anyway? Perhaps now you know, given the ways in which truths are erased in our supposedly post truth world, and how narratives are framed, by those who claim to know better, those publications considered ‘leftie’ or socialist in some respects are squarely to blame, along with the perhaps deliberately embellished version of war we were taught on the national curriculum where Britain saved the world, and the Jews.

It could be true that some of us have a monumental chip on our shoulder, that we make excuses for our inadequacies or we might just be telling the truth. Recently the Guardian featured a story regarding the inhumane treatment a Dutch woman had received following Brexit when she applied for a British passport and was subsequently turned down because she had failed to include her original passport because *reasons*. There was outrage on social media not least because this mother of two was going to be ejected from the country minus her children, who did have British citizenship. How cruel the system was under Brexit, how devastatingly inhumane. Except this is the system and has been for as long as I can remember through my work with women who have no recourse to public funds. You won’t hear about them even if people like me blog about it. Where’s your outrage for women like Meena* and her toddler? She came over on a spousal visa from Pakistan and only just fell short of the then 2 year rule which stipulated residency in the country for at least two years under the supervision of a sponsor, in this case her husband, before she could make an application for indefinite leave to remain giving her full access to British benefits. He was violent. One day she made the decision to leave, because it was no longer safe enough, the violence was escalating and she feared for their lives. She’d endured his violent episodes but there was a limit. I’m only explaining this because she knew she had nowhere to go and so had suffered many months of abuse before she made the final break, potentially being faced with homelessness but that threshold had been crossed. Homelessness was preferable to certain death. Think about the hell she endured all on her own, without a clue. In fact she was one of the lucky ones and had a kind and thoughtful doctor, one who’d spotted the signs and knew of a culturally sensitive refuge that had a single room set aside for women with no recourse.

Subsidies for these women who, almost every time, fall through the net and get disappeared by the state or their abusive partners are practically non existent. There has never been adequate representation or provision for these women. When Meena traveled the two hours to the home office every time they said ‘jump’, baby in tow, she came back a sad shadow of her usual chatty self. I saw the state chip away at this personality, this woman who had every right to exist free from harm and to be supported in her darkest moments but instead she was yanked around like cattle to the slaughter. I can’t forget the way she cried as she prepared for the final hearing and was advised by her solicitor to bring all her valuables with her, if the home office denied her extenuating circumstances (despite the reams of evidence) she would be remanded immediately and sent to a detention centre. When we pleaded for the baby’s sake the home office, along with social services and even our own legal advisors said the state was obliged to provide for the little one and take her into care but Meena would still have to go. I was a temp and I left before her case was closed but I think about her even now and where she might be. When I read about privileged white women bemoaning airport queues, I think about Meena, and all the others the Guardian overlooked through indifference and probably racism, until Brexit provided the sacrificial king upon which to pin all of our woes.

Even more recently the Guardian published a lament from one Lindy West who left Twitter because it serves best the trolls, bots and dictators. I hear she wrote about the Nazism that Twitter is now famous for and also about all the ways she personally was sick of it and to be fair, this wasn’t regular trolling but a sustained campaign of abuse, harassment and stalking. I feel for her, absolutely, but I’m also a little pissed off. Anyone who knows what I and many other woc have been forced to endure the past few years will tell you the gigantic role journalists had in directing that abuse, harassment and stalking our way. When we protested the Guardian and New Statesmen ghouls for their hot takes on our lives they said we were bullying them and they as white middle class people with all the top jobs were being oppressed by us. What effect do you think that had on wider society? At a time when the far right mobilised in the wake of the killing of Lee Rigby these allegedly leftie papers were saying women of colour, queer people, trans people were bullying them and making false allegations of racism that were just unacceptable, oh, and intersectionality was just an elitist buzzword whilst poc had sinister undertones. You want to talk fake news?

Do you see where I’m going with this?

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This guy is an editor for the Guardian. When we called out the racism his girlfriend, who works for the New Statesman, was subjecting various people to, in her actions if not so much her words, this is how he responded.

His girlfriend later went on to ask:

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It is the middle class liberals and lefties citing Brexit as the root of all evil who have enabled the rise of fascism. Virtually every last one of them is white, plus a few tokens on hand to massage their egos. They did know, we tried to tell them a million times. They didn’t just do as they were told, they were the ones doing the telling. These are the facts we must remember.

It doesn’t matter what we think, as grandchildren of immigrants, and legitimate citizens of rainy fascist island, where our lives are scrutinised and twisted beyond our recognition. We are not permitted to defend ourselves or to react from a place of fear and vulnerability. When we react to these privileged white people’s assessments of our lives they double down instead of listening to us because they cannot believe we would have the audacity to talk back. We are bizarrely hostile, not understandably so. We should ask nicely, with our heads bowed and exult upon our colonial masters how special and superior they are, if we are to be given a voice, otherwise we simply do not exist.

 

READ NEXT: Part Two – Comments on the Commentariat

This Oct. 16, 2012 photo shows author J.K. Rowling at an appearance to promote her latest book "The Casual Vacancy," at The David H. Koch Theater in New York. Rowling, the popular author of the "Harry Potter" series, spoke for just over an hour before a capacity crowd in her sole U.S. public appearance to promote her first novel for grownups.  (Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP)

JK Rowling and the Order of the British Empire

In this capitalist world where celebrity is everything, endorsements from the rich and famous can win or lose an election. Part of the reason Brexit was such a shambles was the utterly confusing mix of ‘idealist’ lefties and unapologetic bigots all on the same side. This is not to say I believe Galloway is an idealist or even a leftie for that matter but he says he is (even though I had some trouble reconciling this idea with the images of him sharing a platform with Nigel Farage). Whatever the leftie Brexiters thought they were doing, they weren’t prepared for the violent backlash against anyone deemed not English enough and in the weeks that followed there were some heartfelt retractions and apologies. Turns out if you ally with right wing fascists you only lend credence to their cause.

Perhaps this is why people like JK Rowling believe hard left and hard right are one in the same; they saw some of them mingling together for good ol’ Blighty and imagined the need for independence was unifying, they can work together so long as they kick back at the uber state. Personally I couldn’t understand how anyone could claim to be left yet relish the idea of having a national identity, separate from the rest of Europe because we are Englanders and we should be proud of such greatness. Nothing leftie about that if you ask me. Nationalism is not socialism but I can see why it could be so confusing for so many, this theory that the far left and the far right come together like a horse shoe. I can see why people would think in this way but I have to add, it is a bit of a reach and sounds like the opinion of people who repeat truisms parrot fashion. It sounds like the brain fart of someone who has never attended a counter demo against a far right rally for if they had they would know that the far right are always the first to attack and it is on the far left to defend. The far left resort to violence because it has been proven through history fascists only respond to this kind of protest; you can ask them nicely to leave and see where that gets you.

Far right knuckle-heads repeatedly threaten communities where the population is majority non white. Far left comrades; black, white, brown, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Atheists, LGBTQ, disabled and many others defend these communities because we know an attack on one group is an attack on us all. Do not tar these very distinct groups with the same brush, JK and friends, it only magnifies your political ignorance and detachment from reality.

Neoliberals, Blairites, Red Tories etc would like for us to accept this idea they know what’s best for us, even though they haven’t the slightest interest in what makes us who we are. I want to talk about JK Rowling specifically because she was presented as their ace card – surely no one would dare question the almighty creator of Hogwarts, they assumed. With such a huge following I guess they thought we’d listen to her. Well, actually, a bunch of us were going to notice JK making false equivalencies between antifascists and fascists especially when she has a track record of ignoring minority voices pleading with her to honour their cultural practices and not misappropriate native ideas. This white lady with immense privilege routinely blocks brown people for saying she is stealing their culture and not compensating them for it. Heck, she isn’t even acknowledging it. It does feel suspicious doesn’t it, when we say it out loud and join the dots? A white lady picking and choosing how she would like to represent ethnic minorities, ignoring their protests at being misrepresented, hinting at the fact they and their supporters are just as bad as the white supremacists who would have us all wiped out.. It’s not just me, is it?

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Couple this with the fact that Blairites seem to glaze over whenever you bring up the Iraq war and the devastatingly harrowing legacy we left behind, choosing instead to vote for more bombs then gushing sycophantically about how much richer they got under Blair.. We cannot lay claim to greatness as an island until the war criminal has been held to account. We cannot claim to be a democracy when up to 2 million people were silenced when they marched to Stop the War. We cannot turn our backs when generations of Iraqi children are condemned.

When racists mock non whites for having a chip on their shoulder, for rinsing their oppression dry with the excuse “it was all a very long time ago and I wasn’t there, don’t blame me” they are choosing to ignore the ways in which non white cultures are still being carved up for mass consumption, rewarding the Columbusing white purveyor whilst various ethnic majorities struggle to ensure our basic survival. All she had to do was listen and come to an agreement with the people she is using to propel her successes; to give back what she took from them, in a manner befitting the native tradition. She actively chooses to ignore them. It’s why I had to interject when I saw JK conversing with an old time hero of mine, Sanjeev Bhaskar, in response to a Twitter user asking how he felt about JK supporting racist Blairites. His response was in earnest but coupled with the subsequent tweet from JK it presented Sanjeev in the light of a token brown person, his testament erasing the many voices who feel JK has profited from our ideas and stifled debate from the very people it concerns. Kudos to Sanjeev, I appreciated his frank replies to me, and the exchange prompted me to write this post, something I have been avoiding this past week, partly due to the inevitable white knighting from scary dudebros if they chance upon it but also because it would be ignorant of me to leave out the bit where I admonish the usual suspects for their erasure of the important points being made here. Of course Helen Lewis and Laurie Penny were going to circle jerk their support for this beloved children’s author of whom we’re all just jealous, for being so smart and original. The same faces who’ve systematically erased and silenced poc protesting erasure and silencing have propped each other up to the exclusion of everyone who is not rich, white and not famous.

They can’t have Sanjeev Bhaskar, not when already they have Panju.

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Further reading:

National Geographic – Native Americans to JK “We’re not magical”

Magic in North America Part 1 – Ugh

Natives in America – Dear JK Rowling: We’re still here

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Brexit was an opinion poll, nothing more

Brexit has caused ‘economic PTSD’!

Brexit has forced the Tories to retreat from austerity!

Brexit has broken everything.

Whilst these headlines are presented as facts they actually mean very little. What is economic PTSD? Do you suffer flashbacks to the EURef whenever your eye accidentally catches the Euro symbol on your keyboard perhaps? Maybe the Tories will start throwing cash at everything now, they couldn’t have foreseen the collapse of our economy, not even with all the world class economists on speed dial. Also, when they say Britain has broken *EVERYTHING*, define ‘everything’. Do they really mean ‘every’ ‘thing’ as in every little thing that ever existed? Or do they mean everything that exists to their knowledge, so anything outside their sphere of experience isn’t actually a ‘thing’?

I’ll tell you something else Brexit hasn’t caused; racism. In the days that followed the referendum racism became impossible to ignore, only because the racists widened the net to include Poles, other European ‘migrants’ and people who don’t ‘look Muslim’. Brexit did make one thing absolutely clear; Britain is racist, of this there can be no question now but did it actually cause the racist violence prevalent today on Britain’s streets? Of course not. The majority of people targeted by the far right have been Muslim and many thousands of these incidents occurred before Brexit, before Zac Goldsmith’s racist mayoral campaign, before the racist van even.

I was personally racially abused on a London bus in 2013. The passengers on the packed night bus sided with the racists on that occasion, it was a frightening experience for me and my white friend. When I shared the incident through social media right wingers and liberals alike decided I had no right to defend myself against racism and listed all the things they imagined had happened instead of my eyewitness account. In fact every time I spoke about racism on the internet I was either ignored or targeted in malicious campaigns to silence me. I reported racism to the police and they responded with an informal caution for saying ‘kill all men’. Where were the defenders of freeze peach when I was deemed ineligible for support because I exercised my right to say whatever I feel? What possible justification did West Midlands Police have for blocking me on social media? The authorities turned their back on me when I needed the law, racism is in fact illegal and a punishable offence. It went by unchallenged though and emboldened racists to escalate their attacks against me.

With every inaction, every no holds barred ‘debate’ on immigration and attacks on people the mainstream can’t stomach; disabled people, trans people, refugees fleeing catastrophes we caused, the proud British racist was given the nod to abuse anyone he doesn’t personally like. He thought the referendum would decide whether or not immigrants would be made to LEAVE, in fact he knew nothing about the EU and our part in it.  The violent racism we have all witnessed the past few days has been picked up because the people with the power to spread information (or misinformation if we’re being honest) decided to publish it on their platforms. They keep the spotlight on it. If they had done the same for Muhsin Ahmed, Mohammed Saleem, Nahid Almanea perhaps we wouldn’t be in this nightmare scenario today.

If Richard Dawkins et al hadn’t been so focused on bashing Muslims at every opportunity, maybe we wouldn’t have been quick to ‘other’ European migrants. If Helen Lewis and her ilk had listened instead of ‘literally not giving a shit’ and monstering, othering and silencing marginalised groups they might have heard how we were suffering for many years before the rise of fascism went mainstream. Heck they might even have tried including us in their ‘debates’ so we could provide a suitable counter argument instead of the circle jerk that is the neoliberal mainstream media. Had David Cameron refrained from making Muslim mums the target for his racist crusades, others may not have seen fit to abuse them too. If Katie Hopkins never existed in the first place brown people wouldn’t have been dehumanised and reduced to vermin in a national newspaper.

Despite the many comparisons on the internet between the ‘journalism’ we are subjected to today and the hate speech which was the norm prior to the Holocaust there were still liberals and lefties calling Godwin and accusing us of attention seeking cos we’re all after a book deal (says a lot about the accusers in my opinion). Various national treasures feigned ignorance, going as far as to defend their use of racial slurs with the argument it is not in fact racist to say the p and n words (John Terry, Prince Harry, Anton du Beke, Jeremy Clarkson, India Knight etc made it commonplace where once it was censored). Theresa May justified her creepy racist van asking foreigners how we could make it easy for them to go home, because the British people insisted it wasn’t racist to talk about immigration controls. She can make even a British person stateless, if they are suspected of ‘terrorism’. Britain First, even after their proven links with Jo Cox’s killer, is not yet referred to as the terrorist militia it clearly is so I can only imagine it will be non whites who live with the threat of statelessness. When you make a person stateless it becomes easier to dehumanise them.

These aren’t projected fears, these behaviours have been identified as dangerous because human behaviour is formulaic. If x happens then y is sure to follow. Human beings have proved again and again, through various historical genocides that ‘othering’, that is to say polarisation of groups, ‘us’ and ‘them’ inevitably leads to dehumanisation then mass killings. On the flipside this means we can prevent atrocities if we are honest about the horrors around us. Try and get an honest answer out of a journalist or politican though and you’ll see why we are condemned to this Tory enabled Brexit wasteland. They’re all in it together, to the detriment of us plebs.

At every twist and turn we have raised flags and pleaded with powerful people to recognise “we have far more in common with each other than that which divides us” (as the late Jo Cox once said) and they responded with control; denying our experiences, denying our very existence and charging on without us, full steam ahead. We’ve been discarded and abandoned for demanding equality. The same people carry on today as though they are innocent of any wrongdoing and as shocked as the rest of us at all the worrying reports.

It is never too late to admit you have white privilege and make amends with those you have wronged. If you cannot humble yourself and put others first, you carry us further down this beaten path of iniquity, still against our will. There are those who’d rather we all perished than relinquish even a little of their power and control, and this thought should frighten us all.

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Racist Twitter and Silencing

“It’s not about you Sam, stop being such a princess. Why don’t you just shut the fuck up and think about someone else for a change? Well, if you really were a feminist you’d be thinking about the greater good not just your own problems all the freakin’ time..”

I’d like to be the magnanimous diplomat you’d all prefer me to be. I would like to focus my energies on changing policy, make changes from the top down but that was never going to happen was it? Not with my turbulent past and the colour of my skin. Sorry, what? You’ve seen Europeans with darker skin than me? You think I have light skin privilege? Where have you been my whole life?! I WISH you’d been around when I got called a Paki recently, if only you’d been there to set them straight.  You could have shadowed me at school and that job where the platinum blonde admin assistant serenaded me with “there’s a brown girl in the room” whenever I walked in. You could have corrected her “it’s beige, blonde admin girl” but you weren’t there so you know.

I joined Twitter for social justice. In the beginning I was so afraid of racism; I would actually mute monitoring accounts when they were RT’d into my timeline. It was too much, too close to the bone. I started tweeting about feminism and was a little shocked at the level of abuse I encountered but I had the support of my feminist sisters, acting as shock absorbers, sharing the load.

One day however, perhaps because I was beginning to challenge the inconsistencies within our movement, feminism turned its back on me. I was abandoned. Why? Well, racism, of course. Prominent white feminists like Caroline Criado Perez excused their friends for using problematic language and denied that it had anything to do with race. Of course we know now that we were right but those feminists are now outside of our reach. They have the support of the newspapers, the authorities and politicians. People like Helen Lewis set the standard for the sort of abuse I would be subjected to; all white men with the odd white woman (white feminists generally have white men do their dirty work for them) and token black person for ‘balance’. She lied about me and white people everywhere (including those gullible skeptics) believed her because she is white, nothing more or less. You don’t have to call me a Paki in order to be racist, you can just use your power to silence me and leave me open to attack which you did, Helen. I’m not holding out for an apology anymore, this enmity runs far too deep for me now.

Then you have the politicians accustomed to bending the truth for personal gain. Perhaps Louise Mensch had the best of intentions.. No, scratch that, that sentence doesn’t even make sense. Employing the fullstop at the start of her tweet she channelled increasingly more abusive racists to my online spaces and yet has not, even once, responded personally to a single tweet from me. Her intentions were not to understand or defend or debate but to flame the white knights of Twitter into defending her honour which they did. Nobody batted an eyelid. None of the supposed comrades of mine on the mythical ‘Left’. No, in this instance a white woman takes priority over any seen to be doing socialist intentions on the part of the white middle classes.

I refused to be labelled in any way that allies me with any of these people anymore. I am not an anarchist, socialist, leftie, feminist. I cannot subscribe to an ideology that is untruthful in its very foundations; the trendsetters, the commentariat; the academics seem to have abandoned the kind of person socialism seeks to support. I am not white, I am working class, I am a woman with disabilities; mental and physical and yet I am completely on my own. Social support is not extended to attention seekers like me. I hasten to add I have been pleasantly surprised by the support extended to me by some white feminists. People I have preciously launched myself at who actually do understand what it means to prevent violence against women. I’d like to acknowledge that support and the women extending it; @planetcath and @drlangtrygirl

(I will never do this for the point scoring Cathy Brennan because she actively encourages traumatised people to self-harm and suicide – some women really are just complete bastards)

However, I am keen to point out where I have been deserted in this recent wave of abuse. I initially made a report to Twitter regarding an account that was clearly transphobic. I learnt from friends that they were already aware of the account and had tried unsuccessfully to have it suspended. When I approached Twitter about it, the account in question @TrixiiSabine used an argument between myself and my real life best friend to illustrate the point that “you can’t be friends with a Paki”. I think we’re in agreement that this is racially abusive. I think we all know that racist abuse is an arrestable offence. So what did Twitter do about it? Nothing. They still haven’t responded to me on any of this. Not even when I tweeted them to let them know I had been in contact with the police who were baffled as to why it had been ignored when it’s a clear breach of their terms and conditions and ILLEGAL.

I asked these questions before and I’m going there again. Is it because I am brown? If it’s not that, and maybe it’s because you think I am stupid, why so bothered by my opinions? All I’ve ever asked for is justice, so that we are all considered human and afforded the same basic respect regardless of fanbase or identity. I’ve asked for you to understand how your privileges have given you opportunities I would have been so much more grateful for, things y’all seem to take for granted. In doing this however, I left myself wide open to abuse.

I’ve had to deal with it all by myself and it’s just not on.

Sincerely,

 

Disgusted, of British Asian origin.

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White Feminism 101

White feminists sit around daydreaming about their next campaign. They’re not fighting for basic recognition like the rest of us, they’re thinking of even sillier ways to assert their power and so they have the luxury of poking at the institutions to look as if they are doing something worthwhile. So we show them how bullshit their feminism is and how do they respond? Do they take on board our feelings about how we are being erased? Do they accept that there is a kyriarchal structure they personally maintain? Do they fuck.

Last week various WoC had to push down triggers of domestic and sexual abuse in order to defend the perpetrators of these acts of violence against women. The two men in question; Mike Tyson and Stan Collymore. Y’see if you’re a white woman and you know that so and so is a prolific abuser, you can condemn them without needing to think of the intersection where men of colour are victims of the system also. I mean, Caroline Criado Perez thought it ok to share a platform with Collymore as long as she got her message across about the unacceptable abuse she alone suffers so bear with me a sec. He was taking a stand against the racist abuse he suffers and so, instead of ‘no platforming’ him on the grounds that he is violent and a danger to women – as should be my right as a feminist and campaigner against domestic abuse – I was contemplating the ways in which he would not have been given the same opportunities as white abusers to accept his actions, to be rehabilitated. I had to think of the ways in which he is racially abused and whilst I believe he should be ostracised on grounds of his violence against women, he should not be punished for the colour of his skin. Tyson is also an example of this.

Of course I was livid when I heard that Tyson had had “distressing problems with women”. He is the reason for the distress felt by many women but then I had to think about the way in which those lines were presented. Those were not his words, they were written by the author of the piece Donald McRae. The white man writing the piece severely understated the nature of Tyson’s ‘problems’ with women. The interview could have been structured in a way where he was given a chance to apologise for his behaviour and condemn it in others, instead there’s a garbled quote about how he found God. This is how white people want you to see Tyson.

Jurors in a case against a historic perpetrator of sexual abuse have been directed to acquit the perpetrator of one of the allegations against him on the grounds there is insufficient evidence. I believe her. Another judge sentenced another prolific abuser of young girls to a mere 15 months which was later doubled due to its “undue leniency”. The judge actually said he had “given pleasure to millions of people” and was known for his “genial personality, charm, bonhomie and wit”. White man in a wig, barrister Crispin Aylett actually felt it was ok to compare the relatively small number of victims to Savile’s 1300, as if that should have any bearing on the sentencing of a sexual predator. Hall should have received 30 months for each individual case, that is how the plebs are sentenced (if they are found guilty in the first place, that is). The whole of the Yewtree investigation can be easily summarised as a presentation of white power. When Mark Duggan was shot, the media had a field day telling us all how he was murdered for being in possession of a firearm. This ‘fact’ was not confirmed, it was later revealed that he was innocent of this claim and the police had executed a man in cold blood. The damage had been done though. A jury delivered a verdict of lawful killing even though the assailant was unarmed. Try talking about Yewtree though and the calls for ‘due process’ are deafening. I cannot be the only one to see these injustices for what they are; that they are racist in nature and that racism is not just about words but about the way in which non-whites are presented; as though inherently evil and guilty of all wrongdoing.

Take the recent obsession white feminists have with policing non-white bodies and our choices. It is perfectly fine for a woman of colour to write about her experiences in a foreign culture. It is the sort of discussion that is long overdue. However, the insistence of white feminism sticking her beak in everything and taking over as though she is emancipating the poor brown loves from the overbearing brown patriarchy are transparent and deplorable. You have no right to call yourself ‘prochoice’ if you have ANY restrictions on choice. Sex selective abortion is not something I personally advocate; I have my own feelings on the matter but I am not going to project those on others. Is sex selective abortion something that keeps white feminists awake at night? Does it affect their lives? Not really. It does however give them the opportunity to condemn the savages, once again. Criado Perez would do better to tackle sex selective IVF which is freely available in the United States to people (from all over the world) who can afford the right to plan their family. Why this preference for male foetuses? In many cultures girls are not yours to keep, they belong to the men they will marry. If you are poor, it is another mouth to feed. We could tackle the level of poverty the majority of the world suffers in relation to our massively privileged West but that would be too much like hard work, making sure everyone is fed. Instead let us claim our moral superiority and use it as a whipping chain to keep the non-whites in check, especially when they’ve got this ridiculous intersectionality campaign for equality.

It is the actions of white feminists that further oppress the already marginalised. When they wade in and take over, when they insist on using their voices to pity you instead of support, what they are saying is that they know better and they’re going to save you, not empower you, but literally going to do all the hard work and you can thank them later. Suddenly their arguments take on another tone and it starts to feel racist. That is how the majority of racism plays out, it is not in slurs or violent behaviour but the ways in which we are manipulated and made to feel inferior. They transfer their sinister game plan on to you “Your privileged, careerist, misogynist bullshit version really is pulling in the crowds”… without the slightest ounce of self-awareness there, our mascot for white supremacy Criado Perez suggests to her 20,000 odd followers that is what WE’RE doing. Hahaha lol.

White feminism is intent on telling you the kind of sex you should be having (be humble dammit, lie back and think of white supremacy), that your long hair is a thing to lure men with and that black women cannot be rich famous successful AND feminist. Oh yeah, and if you disagree with them about the things THAT AFFECT YOU then you’re no longer a woman, just a misogynist.

It’s simple really, put the white narrative down and learn to stfu. This has been our only request but they won’t do it because they enjoy the power. Don’t kid yourself that it isn’t a race thing, don’t believe you’re the only worthy Asian in the village and the rest of us are just jealous; I’ve been there, that’s an old trick white people have been pulling for a millennia. Solidarity.

 

 

 

 

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2013 – The year Intersectionality gave WoC their own voice

It’s that time of year, where journalists take a break from ‘serious reporting’ and instead compile lists reviewing the past year and their predictions for the coming year ahead. This is sort of like one of those lists except you won’t find it in any of the mainstream publications or on the lips of the commentariat. It seems pertinent to review the impact of intersectionality on marginalised women on the back of a year where many of us felt hopeful that, for the first time, we were challenging white supremacy with a legitimate ideology they’d have serious trouble rejecting and they responded in kind by abusing us, questioning our mental health and threatening us with rape and death threats; by painting us as liars and agent provocateurs, about as black and working class as Owen Jones. No one said it would be easy.. But it wasn’t so bad when our efforts paid off in the friendships we forged and the growing promise of true equality with the advent of intersectionality.

Almost a year ago I was accused of making it all up, for presenting a false version of myself, one that suffers racist abuse where there is no racism. I felt alone especially when the umpteenth person accused me of making things up for attention. If I had been a little sicker (I am heavily medicated at times), it would have probably been the end of my online mission to expose the rapists/racists one by one. What it inadvertently demonstrated was the typical ways in which WoC are ridiculed and caricaturised by white supremacists who don’t need to prove their assertions, their word alone is all another white person need hear. Yes, this was devastating for me, but not unusual. When I accused the wrong person of racism, it wasn’t that the racism hadn’t taken place at all, it had, it was just the WRONG person. I should have called David Starkey a vile racist and condemned BBC Question Time for giving him a platform but I’d got the wrong person. It is telling the racism perpetrated was lost in that debacle, the apology that was issued without question and forgiveness from the person I had personally offended also seemed to have vanished from the dominant white narrative, and the legacy is one of white people pulling ranks. It set the tone for 2013. It is telling that the year ended with Helen Lewis writing a piece where she exclaimed without a hint of irony “we should all be more open about the times when we were wrong” (of course it is one rule for white women and another for the rest).

If they thought I was the only woman of colour holding up the whole of intersectionality and slandering me was going to harm it in anyway then they are terribly naive and probably need to catch up. Here, I provide this service and present my Twitter feminist WoC (women I have had the pleasure of befriending post white feminisms) on their highs and lows of 2013 and how intersectionality spoke to them and brought us all together.

Aniqah (@AniqahC)

I hadn’t heard of intersectionality before this year. I only found out about it when I joined twitter again and started seeing “intersectional feminist” in people’s profiles. I can truthfully say that learning about intersectionality changed my life in that I felt comfortable in my own skin for the very first time. I used to separate and loathe each little part of myself; my dark skin, my religion, my gender, my sexual orientation- they just didn’t go together in the eyes of mainstream society. For the first time I feel INCLUDED in feminism as a Muslim, as a WoC, as a queer woman and it feels AWESOME. It’s also the first time I realised that yes- race, class, religion, identity ARE feminist issues and that I wasn’t any less of a feminist when dealing with these things.

Why isn’t intersectionality more well known? Why don’t I see all the wonderful WoC, LGBTQ feminists in the mainstream media? I grew up thinking that feminism was a WHITE movement and feeling ashamed of my own culture but I was wrong! There are and have been loads of WoC feminists all over the world. I feel very disappointed that these women DID exist but were just not allowed to sing from the rooftops like their white counterparts.

I feel very positive about 2014. I really think that intersectional feminism- a movement that fights for women across all walks of life- is only getting bigger and louder. Much louder.

Sook Min (@doloresonthedot)

Growing up as a working class WoC I was always aware that my relationship with oppression and privilege was different to the white women I was surrounded by, and always felt frustrated because I didn’t have the language to describe the racism I experienced and the differences of my experience to theirs. Using Twitter was a really revolutionary experience for me because it showed me that the language I need *does* exist and connecting with so many fantastic WOC who let me sound ideas off them and recommended me reading materials was incredibly liberating.

My personal highlight of the year #NotYourAsianSidekick, created by Suey Park, felt like a huge catharsis for me – finally I was able to speak openly about my experiences as an Asian woman and articulate the fears and concerns I have regarding anti-blackness within Asian communities – and instead of being shut down by other Asians, I was supported. It was a low point when I came to the realisation that white feminism as an ideology does not support WoC and other marginalised groups (trans* people, sex workers, disabled women, WoC who fall into all these oppressions too!) and would rather focus on “banknote feminism” than really addressing its own issues.

In the coming year (along with a few other wonderful women) I am planning to host a few discussions to examine different facets of the experiences of European PoC and our legacy of colonialism. I also think 2014 will be a great year for rejecting White Feminist values and hopefully translating some of the energy I feel into practical action!

To the cisters, the supremacists, the commentariat: We’re not here for you. We’re not here to make you comfortable. We’re not here to make this easy. We’re going to rock your world and dismantle your structures, and there’s nothing you can do about it!

Natalia (@SandiaElectrica)

I guess, as with many WoC, intersectionality was something I’ve always been aware of in a way. We live this stuff every day – this simultaneously gendered & racialised oppression. Then add into the mix a queer sexuality and mental health issues and I’ve known full well how these things interact and compound each other. From time spent on social media I have become more aware of the nuances and subtleties of how these things play out though. I’ve learned a lot from other WoC, especially black feminists, Trans* women and Disabled WoC.

There have been many highlights for me – although almost always tinged with some sadness or discomfort – but then I think that’s in the nature of progress against oppression. I’d say one of my favourite moments was when Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) started the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag. It was like a portal to the reality of WoCs lives – where you could see others and in turn be seen by them – a backlash against the usual erasure. It felt like a real turning point. Of course there were the usual white tears and tone policing – the monstering & accusations of ‘reverse racism’ and calls for assimilation under the guise of unity are still going on now, but I feel like we built a stronger sense of community in that moment. We can see each other more clearly now and we know we’ve got each other’s backs.

I think the low point for me has got to be the Fisher Vampire’s castle/Russell Brand period. It’s weird because this also had a sort of dual, bittersweet nature in terms of what it brought up. It was really crushing to see people who had previously made all the right noises with respect to feminism laud this profoundly hateful attack – it was like a big fat fuck you to everything that is of the deepest concern to myself and those like me. The same with Brand – the willingness to sweep the inconvenient misogyny under the carpet so people could align themselves with this faux-everyman predator. Having said that, it’s been said many times now, it did polarise people and force many off the fence. It was painful at times to see which camp people chose, but also heart-warmingly surprising to find allies you never knew you had. It’s forced a praxis to the seemingly empty words that irritated me for so long.

I expect in 2014, racists, sexists, transphobes etc. will probably double down on their denial or hatred – and I think the reason for this is that despite all this talk of fractures and a lack of unity there is actually a growing unity among the marginalised. I think some of our voices are starting to break through and I feel like we are less afraid in a way. I feel like we’re getting louder and harder to ignore and it’s because we’re doing it for ourselves rather than holding our hands out, asking to be ‘tolerated’.

My end of year message to white feminism? You are fast becoming as irrelevant to us as we are to you.

Jude (@judeinlondon)

Prior to this year I was aware very vaguely of the term intersectionality but hadn’t explored it. I came to understand it better from following fantastic feminists & women and I realised that intersectionality was merely the term for every experience I’d had in life since birth.

I think primarily it was just the bringing together of women who had long been silenced to shout back louder in unison. There were many individual highlights but that was the most heartening for me, personally. A good thing really considering the constant misapplication & wilfully ignorant understanding of intersectionality from white mainstream feminism. I predict mainstream feminism will step up its attempts to co-opt and appropriate intersectionality. They’ve seen it’s not going away and now they regroup to try and control it.

They’re worried, and they should be. 2014 is not their year, it’s ours.

Fatiha (@Hijabinist)

Intersectionality has been a part of my feminism for years because I’m a Muslim women and I wear hijab, so intersectionality is my lived experience. A lot of islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry is very gendered and a lot of the gender based discrimination I face is tied to the fact that I’m muslim, a convert and a ‘hijabi’.

I’ve done a lot of my intersectional learning on twitter and I think it’s a great forum for marginalised folks to share ideas and support each other. The support I’ve got on twitter has been a highlight for me. It’s my experience that people we think of as mainstream, white cis feminists generally aren’t supportive of muslim women and have a very simplistic and patronising understanding of the issues we face. Meanwhile trans women, women of colour, and sex workers have all been very supportive. Women who find themselves pushed to the margins by mainstream cis white feminism end up sticking together.

There have been some real low points this year that had me facepalming to myself. One was during the Stand With Wendy protests in Texas, when someone dressed up in a burqa with a crown and sash saying “Ms Texas”. How can feminism support Muslim women when Muslim women’s bodies are used as a symbol of oppressive misogyny? When I spoke up about it of course a bunch of people leapt in to defend the costume. There was another incident where Boris Johnson made a remark about women only going to university to meet husbands. This got picked up by the Everyday Sexism project and they spent several hours tweeting and retweeting women’s (non-marriage-related) reasons for going to university. In fact the comment had been made specifically about Muslim women of colour. There was an added racial and religious connotation to the remark but of course that got erased in the rush to play a fun new hash tag game. Then at the end of the year Laurie Penny had to nerve to write an article claiming that it was racist men who were corrupting feminism with their nasty islamophobia! If this year has taught me anything it’s that feminists are quite capable of bringing in the islamophobia, racism and transphobia all on their own.

Fortunately twitter and blogs remain a great platform for us to push back against this kind of exclusionary feminism. I think we’re going to see the push back get more organised and more vocal in the coming year and I expect to see a lot more subversive hashtags and twitter movements. Someone said to me recently that they felt that a seismic shift was coming and I agree with that.

So to the Cis White Feminism Brigade I say this: your time has well and truly passed.

Smug white feminists and slut shaming

It’s been a chaotic year for feminism, well, my feminism at least. For a few years before that I struggled to understand why so many women were vociferously rejecting feminism as if they didn’t believe in equality but I needed to learn that what they were in fact objecting to was privileged white middle class feminism. I was adamant it didn’t need a rebrand though, we just needed to reclaim feminism but I’m afraid it’s probably too late for that.

Many of my peers have rejected the word feminist. They subscribe to the ideals but do not agree with the negative connotations associated with that word. As bull-headed as I am I refused to have that word change in meaning for myself; I have always been a feminist and will continue to identify as one but will also point out the distinction and intersectionality is a perfect word to sum that up.

How does white feminism affect our lives as WoC/disabled women/trans women? I joined Twitter at the same time as some of our big white feminist names. We started off raising awareness of the same things. They got a lot more attention than me but I refused to see it instead believing it to be a joint effort; who cares which of us are seen as long as we achieve equality? Then one day I wrote a blog about the woman who died as a result of gang rape in India. It spread very quickly and I received a lot of praise and support. A few people suggested I send it to Helen Lewis, they believed it was just the sort of thing that needed publishing; the opinion of a woman of colour with a foot in both worlds. Perhaps where I went wrong in this piece was my appeal to white feminists to stop othering the issues WoC face because of this belief that it happens to someone else over in that other brutal country full of savages (where the brown folk live). Helen said she’d read it and found it interesting but had already commissioned an Indian woman to write about India’s problems. She proved my point and did it brazenly. Did she think I was stupid or is she really that ignorant? Since then however the white fems I’d allied myself with have written for the big publications. They’ve wasted everyone’s time with their ridiculous self-serving campaigns. They have the support of all the important white men in power. All hail white feminism and how it strives for equality for all white women.. Wait, no, it doesn’t even do that. Sure there are some Marxist feminists in their ranks but most of them are yet to utter the words austerity or food bank.

They go from the blatantly obvious prejudice and white supremacy to misogyny as soon as they find their feet. Some are quick off the mark and proud of their bigotry, others are afraid they’ll fall out of favour, people pleasers if I’m going to be generous, cowards if I’m brutally honest. Yet when they do, it’s a wonder they ever felt the need to preserve their good names; they have such a spectacular fall from grace, it’s cringe inducing.

What the fuck kind of feminist comes up with the term ‘smug sexual’? What would you rather, that we were ‘lacking in self-esteem sexuals’? How about ‘humble sexuals’? Will that make us worthy? It isn’t enough that – regardless of colour etc. – as women we all endure slut shaming and abuses because we are either saints or whores; and if we are whores and damn well enjoy it then we face the condemnation of our white sisters? Fuck off.

I thought better of you white fence sitting sisters. That’s why you were on my blogroll, but you’re just like the rest. I don’t feel disappointment anymore; those feels are so last year. No, I’m bitter and I know it because I should have learned by now. I saw you, and your alliances but foolish optimist that I am, I didn’t trust my own judgement. You complain that we’ve fractured feminism and the golden age is done; for you my white fem cister it probably is but intersectionality? Well, it’s thriving and there are many more like me. Not the me that was so desperate for a place in your superior feminisms but the others you abandoned also, and together we’re making equality a reality.

A big fat thank you for nothing, cisters, we’re going make up for it by having lots of smug sex and eat cake and drink gin. You’re just jealous.