intersectionality

An Open Letter: To the racist next door (well, upstairs)

We haven’t met yet, I tend to avoid the stairwells at home time, in fact most of the time because I rarely go out but I frequently hear you come home after a relatively short day at work. The landlord says you’re a teacher and this was meant to prove your suitability for the flat above me, the walls are thin and I knew the last couple far too intimately, although I hadn’t met them either. Whilst it’s true there haven’t yet been any all night raves as yet, I am getting used to the drone of your very boring self important expressions. I don’t think this is your natural speaking voice but an affectation of what a teacher should sound like. You sound very male and very entitled even when I can’t make out the words, you frequently talk over your guests. When you’re not enunciating for the whole street you’re belting out Lloyd Webber classics for Britain First’s Got No Talent so it’s fair to say you like all the attention being you gets.

It is with this growing irritation that I peeked out of the peep hole when I heard your voice bellow loudly as you trudged up the stairs this afternoon. I caught the back of your head, looks like you don’t have any hair, and you seemed as tall as the door to the next floor. A shorter man with brown skin followed behind. He didn’t pique my interest as much as the words you were saying to him though. You said “whilst women in India are oppressed at least they get an education. In Pakistan they don’t even have that.”

Oh really? I’m even more pumped to meet you now, can’t wait to look at all your photos of Pakistan and hear about your best and worst adventures. Of course as an educator of future generations I assume you must have the information to make a statement so matter of factly, so I’m going to believe you when you say anything, otherwise why would you? Unless say, you were just repeating a thing you’d always heard and just assumed to be true because you’re a thickheaded arrogant racist (cos white supremacy runs deep even with the ones who don’t appear outwardly fascistic) and why should you care about whether things are factual or not, it’s not like due process is a thing poc even understand in their own corrupt countries so why would they expect it here, or something?

In my large family most of the graduates are women. My grandparents had a focus on educating the girls because they wanted us to be independent and not reliant on a husband who could do with us as he pleased. They saw education as freedom from patriarchy, which certainly confused me growing up being as my family weren’t lacking on the patriarch front. I think it was a latent desire to keep “our women” free from the clutches of western patriarchy, to increase our value as women in the western world where we are seen as servile and disposable. This attitude was prevalent in the community I come from. These were the poorest of Pakistanis and many married their girls off young but the suitors were always turned away at the door for us and my aunts. “They’re too busy with their studies” was the blanket response my gran had for anyone suggesting we were ripe. This remained the case forever, at least with regards to myself. I’m still unmarried, in my 30s, and still learning, at my own pace.

This isn’t the first time a person in a position of power has espoused dangerously problematic opinions with regards to the natives of my fledgling motherland. Another teacher, older than the racist upstairs and also a devout Christian asked me once whether it was true there was a whole village of imbeciles somewhere in Pakistan, where the IQ was nominally the lowest in the whole world. I didn’t even know what to say to that.

This kind of jarring ignorance has become commonplace in the wasteland of post recession Tory Britain, it’s breathtaking because it was not the norm for me, at least not growing up in my multicultural town with my multicultural friends and teachers. It was perhaps always there but cleverly disguised because at one time people believed in power of laws which forbid racism, I know I did. The various authorities inadequate response to racism has allowed for that attitude to seep into wider society because the racists know the cops are on their side. Whiteness trumps justice. In fact racism is condoned by the people occupying seats of power at the very top, for example when they call Cobra to deal with an unprecedented death of a white soldier on British soil even though that sentence is untrue in its entirety.

I have come to conclude there is no right or wrong in society only power and control, that is to say I believe there is a moral compass and most certainly a version of life exists for some where doing the right thing is the noblest and happiest way to live but for the majority of people it really is about what you can get away with in any given situation. These opinions white people have, where they deny the humanity of others and speak of them as aliens without any direct experience of the people in question is a narrative that is centuries old. Racism is most prevalent in the UK in the areas where there are actually no people of colour, so when you’re trying to reason with a fascist that they are wrong about all Muslims, you may as well be speaking to a shit brick wall. There is no reasoning with those who are devoid of reason, education, experience yet exist in a suit of white skin that elevates them to a state of enlightenment where they can make damaging untruthful statements about other humans without batting an eyelid or challenge.

They’re teachers and I left school at 16 so they’re right and I’m wrong, or at least that’s the version some of you allow yourselves to believe.

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We will not let white feminism divide and conquer us

Everyone knows how white people colonised the world by pitting neighbours against each other. My own grandparents wouldn’t speak about partition, all my gran would say was that there was a time when Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims lived in the same villages, they were different but they respected those differences; going into the mountains to slaughter meat for food for example, acknowledging that this practice might be offensive to Hindus and Sikhs. The only other thing I recall my gran mentioning was the horrific state in which the trains carrying respective Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus arrived at their destinations, all passengers on board slaughtered by the other side. I can understand why they didn’t want to talk about it. That said I won’t ever forget their belief that the British were to blame.

I’ve always wondered how this manipulative tactic comes so easy to colonisers, even when they aren’t drawing up borders in countries that do not belong to them but in everyday life. I have watched incredulously as the white feminists of Twitter have attempted to do the same to Intersectionality. This movement was started by people of colour, yes but its foray into the mainstream has been enabled by white folk. Black people just don’t have that power. It is white people who will ultimately change racism by educating themselves and their peers, who must learn to accept we are all human. White supremacists don’t listen to black people, they murder them. So it was with great interest and perplexity I watched as various white fems of Twitter lay into our white allies, the few white people that do recognise our humanity. This is the kind of reaction they got.

sazza

At the time I thought it was genuine ignorance but now I’m not so sure. I think the white feminists knew that having white allies would make the transition from theory into practical change easier. At first they blamed prominent white intersectionalists like Zoe Stavri for fanning the flames in a bid to further their own agenda, she was somehow brainwashing us into giving her competition a hard time because of those column inches she’s after. This may be how the white fems of Twitter operate, manipulating the truth for self-serving reasons but I know Stavvers irl. We both belong to a diverse friendship group; black, brown, white, queer, trans*, bi, straight, able and disabled. Stavvers doesn’t need to pretend she is an intersectionalist; she lives it every day unlike the very white, very middle class people pointing their fingers at her. When white intersectionalists backed down to examine their praxis, white fems returned to attacking oppressed groups as if they were suddenly the problem.

Taking this all into account I would like to appeal to white intersectionalists to write their blogs on what they are seeing. Get involved; get your own messages out there. White fems may have their big media platforms but we are bigger in numbers and also cover most of the globe. Let’s flood the internet with our own information, let white people critique other white people without accusations of hijacking or misinformation. Here, some of you have bashed back and for that I am grateful, solidarity will get us through this.

The 8 White Identities

 

 

whitechart

 

 

Look at this chart.

Be honest with yourself.

Be better.

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.

White Power and Control

Say you’ve written a piece about intersectionality or experienced yet another oversight from the mainstream white feminists and it garners the support of most of your peers, PoC or otherwise yet there is one lone voice of colour the white fems put on a pedestal as though your lived experiences can be rejected because this one says it’s not so; how to begin to understand why the person in question is so blinkered to the kyriarchal structures of power and control. It’s simple really; it comes down to self-awareness and the privilege of having white friends, ones that are completely honest with you.

As a small child I very quickly became aware of the stigma attached to my roots. The word Paki made me feel dirty which is ironic considering Pakistan means ‘The land of the pure’. Of course when they’re saying dirty paki and you’re four and don’t yet know the meaning of the word then this is how it’s going to make you feel. My mum wouldn’t cross the road at a pelican crossing if the driver was white because of the time one of them had revved his car towards her and then laughed at her when she jumped back, her four small children in tow. Once, I convinced myself that it wasn’t me the young white girl was calling a paki, but my younger sister on account of her slightly darker skin. For many years I would tell myself that I was ok, I was white enough to go unnoticed. I had witnessed racist abuse but never been victim to it myself. I just wasn’t like all the others. So much so that I thought I wasn’t even going to get periods, being as I wasn’t a girly girl. I think I became aware of my position in the world very early on and rejected it because I thought better of myself than the labels the world was putting on me. I could reject them and pretend they didn’t even exist. Of course they do and learning these injustices were still being perpetrated against me was heart-breaking and almost too unbearable to accept.

I had to stop and take note when the girls I hung out with at lunchtime called the Asian boys ‘Husseins’. The slur of choice at my school in the mid-90s was “Bosnian refugee”. I remember seeing the genocide on the news and feeling then that it was deeply problematic and inappropriate but what could I do? As an early teen it served me well to laugh along. Being one of a twin the comparisons between us went beyond the pretty one or smart one, the slight difference in our skin tone meant that I was a white wannabe. It might have been the Goth makeup as well but we’re pretty much identical, unless you’re deciding which one you’d prefer to be seen with. My friends were white, hers were mostly brown. I sometimes wonder whether I made a conscious decision (beyond anglicising my name) to only like ‘white’ things. I saw my last Bollywood film around the time I cut all my hair off and starting wearing a fashion cross, aged 13. I’d seethe in fury at the Asian kids piling on the bus home, the looks of disgust on the white pensioners faces made me feel ashamed to be part of their group. When I left Birmingham at 16 and joined a school in London I was relieved to make some new white friends, racist as fuck mind but once again, they were sure to reassure me I wasn’t like all the others, especially when I agreed they were dirty Pakis.

I met many other PoC who felt like me, secretly disgusted by their heritage. I’ve lost count of the number of South Asians who feel they have to make you aware of their mixed heritage; even if it 1/16th Greek by way of marriage. When you’ve spent your life listening to the moaning white majority about how our food smells, how our clothes don’t match, even how hairy we are (ffs) then these things become ingrained and you either reject them and become an oppressor yourself by denying the unfair systems that dominate the narrative (because you are not like the rest of them and this will serve you well comparatively) or you believe you are incapable, unworthy, disgusting. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you deserve the inequalities you are made to suffer. So you do, without question.

I was lucky. I had some white friends who balked on my behalf. I was quite happy to sit there and listen to their parents question what kind of curry I prefer or confirm their reservations on forced marriage and that weird Islam but my friends did not like it. It was they who prompted me to question why the tone of my skin should mean anything. I hadn’t been a Muslim for many years so why was I still answering those questions, were they incapable of seeing of me as an individual with other dreams and passions? They could just as easily ask me about art or politics but they don’t because they see a brown beigey person and they assume that means Muslim. That’s racism. It took me the best part of my 20s to get to grips with that. I don’t wear a headscarf; I don’t have to leave the room five times a day for prayer. I eat and drink what I want; I haven’t had a homemade curry in years. I sometimes wear shorts. Yet still I come off as Muslim. Then they say Islam isn’t a race and Islamophobia cannot be racist.

See, the reason I believe my white friends when they say something is racist is because they are white and other white people really let themselves go in their presence. They are better placed to identify microagressions because they know where they are coming from. My white friends rejected their supremacy and fight a constant battle to remind themselves of their privilege. There are white people who are appalled at their own murderous pillaging history and cannot abide seeing it being perpetrated in this day and age. Then there are also those who have the same take on that history but positively revel in all things empire because that is all they have; seriously lacking in wit and intelligence or anything of any personal worth just the propaganda spewed out by the state every time they go an invade a country in the belief that they are somehow better because they are white. That’s power. Telling you you’re somehow the only chosen one; that’s control.

I can see why you’d want to identify with the white majority, I know I did. Heck, I was even engaged to a white man in the RAF. It was he who gave me the most valuable lesson of all; it doesn’t matter what you do, how you speak, who you love; middle England, the Daily Mail lot, the majority of white Britain might speak to you if they have to but you’ll always be a Paki to them. We split shortly after this especially when he reassured me I was alright now I was on the ‘white side’.

Racism, it’s not in my head, but yours.

There is no anarchism without feminism

I’d never been to bookfair before. I was very excited to be attending; had been looking forward to looking at books and collecting badges and I knew everyone I loved would be there. Not a lot of that happened though. I went home with two badges (the best two badges there in my opinion ‘my body is my business’ and ‘keep your rosaries of my ovaries’) and a stiff body and sore throat.

Within an hour of arriving we had to face the dreaded white man from down under. I’d heard there was some drama at last year’s bookfair but my memory isn’t the best so had forgotten the details apart from the fact that he was a misogynist and had upset some of our fem bloc. Well, it was clear to see and hear why this might have been. Stood on a bench he was spouting the usual Assange rape apologist bullshit about how there is “no rape without a charge” and that it simply didn’t happen. Of course we weren’t going to let that go. “Rape apologist” we shouted as his face screwed up into a grimace, a small crowd gathered round him. He started pointing at Stavvers, for some reason becoming utterly fixated with her red boots and sniping that she was an imperialist and he didn’t have to listen to her. So I stepped up and asked him what I was, surely he couldn’t excuse me in the same manner? I was wrong.

“Your culture,” he spat, “has invaded my culture for the last 800 years!” I must admit, I was a little confused by this. I might be British by birth but it certainly wasn’t my choice and my ancestors are traditionally those who have been raped and pillaged by imperialists so I couldn’t get my head around what he meant. “You’re a British imperialist!” He said this a few times but it didn’t make a difference in my comprehension. Here was this white man with an Australian accent and hefty mousey dreadlocks accusing me of racially controlling him and I wasn’t happy. This is where I got a bit sweary. I asked him what he meant by that as I made a point of looking at my skin and he replied “well, your accent is really English.” This person clearly hasn’t spent any time in this country or spoken to any people of colour living in Western societies otherwise he’d know that accents have very fucking little to do with a person’s roots. That and he’s a big fat racist. We called him that and we called him a rape apologist. A couple of his supporters really didn’t like that. One man, with his fuzzy mullet and flat cap brought his camcorder right into my face, his lips shaking, trying to intimidate me into silence. ANY anarchist worth their fucking politics knows you do not film comrades so with this in mind, we assumed he was a copper and called it as such. He didn’t like that. Dread man called us ‘hysterical’ and we all whooped. There were calls for making the most of it with a game of manarchist bingo as things went from ridiculous to brain numbingly tedious. He randomly accused two of our group of killing 11 people in Northern Ireland, accusing one of them of being Northern Irish.

The crowd around us got bigger, comrades very much on our side and the others, men who seemed utterly heartbroken (pissed off) that we were chanting “kill all men”. One well-meaning chap explained how his mum was a feminist and how he had support for women but he felt alienated by phrases such as the one we were using. Assuming he was an anarchist, I asked him if he’d ever said ‘ACAB’ or ‘eat the rich’ and then whether he said these in the absolute belief that there wasn’t a single good cop in the world or that he might actually munch on the upper classes because if he was saying it, then he obviously he meant it. There was a slight pause before he understood what I was saying but he persisted in advising that we were pushing the average man away.

Here’s the thing: we don’t give a shit about the average man. We’re not teachers, we’re not leaders, we’re not going to break it down for you in a language you understand. We are expressing ourselves, nothing more, nothing less. We say these extreme things because, powerless as we are, sometimes it is the only thing in our arsenal. Words are powerful, yes, and for those fleeting few seconds, we are in control and you can’t hurt us.

As the crowd dissipated we made our way to the foyer for the AnarchaFem conference but on the way in, we were confronted by fuzzy mullet man. His face started twitching again, he must have really been resisting the impulse to physically attack me, his whole demeanour was triggering of the men who have attacked me in the past. I felt eerily calm, pushing his finger down when he pointed it in my face and moving into his space to see how he liked it. “Do you believe in free speech?” He repeated this over and over. Comrades shouted “rape apologist cop!” at him but this didn’t change his stance. It was only when a male comrade physically put his body between us that this manz sloped off, the bulk of my male friend clearly too much of a challenge.

If we thought an AnarchaFem conference was going to leave us any more confident about the bookfair then those hopes were soon dashed. They had a safer spaces policy that I really got on board with but I couldn’t say that it made me feel any safer on the premises. I raised the point with the people facilitating the meeting. Whilst it felt safe-ish in the room, the journey to the room had left us afraid and feeling remarkably unsafe. They replied that they knew Ciaron O Reilly was back this year and were aware of the problems he had caused the previous year so we could meet at the end and discuss how we were going to tackle it. With this covered we moved on to the subject of self-defined women only safe spaces for the AnarchaFem conference. It turned out this wasn’t it but a strategy meeting for setting one up. Most of the discussion with other anarcha fems seemed progressive until one woman suggested we needed a safe space where we could “discuss divisive subjects like sex work and abortion”.  This is where the meeting went downhill. As was rightly pointed out by one of our irl comrades, we come to an anarcha fem space safe in the knowledge that if you are identifying as an anarchist you have rejected the system and discussions such as the one proposed are had by anarchists every day when combatting bigotry. This should not be the starting point; we should already have come to the conclusion that our feminism is inclusive. We might have our own feelings about sex work and abortion, heck, I have my own feelings about some Muslims but I’m not about to force my feelings on others because of the twisted experiences I have personally had. From outside the room we heard shrieking and through the small glass panel I saw some of dread man’s supporters heckling and pointing at us. When they were asked to leave, they said they didn’t follow rules cos anarchy. When advised they couldn’t drink outside a room where a safe space policy was in place, they jeered at us and said “are you gonna stop calling him a rape apologist?” We told them this was room focused on survivors and they had no business being on the landing and then another man from a meeting around the corner came to have a go but not at them, as though we were the troublemakers. On speaking to other comrades, many of the workshops had similar problems; one of them even had survivors and perpetrators in the same space with someone sat at the door to ensure people couldn’t leave. There were people crying and shaking. This is not my anarchism. This is patriarchy.

Leaving the meeting we quickly became aware that dread man was stirring trouble up again. The entrance to the building was crammed with people posturing towards a centre point. Assangites in Anon masks were taking pictures and filming people again. TELL ME, HOW IS THIS ANARCHIST? I rightly got very angry and tried to push the camera out of one of the women’s hands but she was really enjoying herself. Dread man was spouting some nonsense about ‘Branning’ and I remembered hearing somewhere many anon types were struggling with the fact that Chelsea Manning is who she is. I said her name was Chelsea Manning and it affected him for all of a split second before he went on a bizarre rant about the Clintons and Chelsea being Hilary’s daughter and imperialist conspiracies yadda yadda. We started chanting “her name is Chelsea Manning” and then he pointed at me, “America and that woman over there, she is the most dangerous woman in the world!” I won’t lie, this made me sorta happy. But seriously, me, 5 foot brownie with invisible disabilities is the biggest threat that man thinks the world has to face. I agree about America but how, HOW am I on a par with that rogue state there? Obviously he’s a completely ridiculous manz with an ego the size of Australia, just like Assange.

What can be done about Anarchism? This was my first experience of anarchists outside of my close knit activist group. I am hoping we are the majority and we can eliminate the patriarchal fucks intent on maintaining power and control structures otherwise I am seriously going to have to rethink my identity.

Hey Caitlin, AIDS isn’t funny

I write this from a very loud corner of the Twitterverse. There isn’t so much of a silence but a fervent party atmosphere. People are expressing themselves, tweeting politely at each other but getting to the crux of the problem for many of us.  Why should we be made to feel like trolls when our only crime is righteous and crucial dissent? Cos there is a difference you know? Here, I will give you an example:

moron

In this set of tweets, Caitlin responds to her friends ‘rape joke’ with affection. It’s a given amongst feminists, whether they be of the intersectional or bigoted variety that rape is not a laughing matter, in any context.  It is my DUTY as a woman and feminist striving for a safer future for our children to point this out to Caitlin and ask why someone of her experience and stature does not get that this is unacceptable. If there hadn’t been a long history of silencing from Caitlin’s corner, we might even discuss this like grown adults and respectfully come to the conclusion that rape is never funny, particularly not on a public platform where people will take their lead from you. If my pointing this out to someone who should know better is considered trolling and not genuine concern regarding rape culture, then I call bullshit. I am not threatening to rape Caitlin cos THAT would be trolling. I am not saying she deserves to be raped, cos THAT would be trolling. Yet troll I am allegedly because I choose to vociferously disagree. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Now. AIDS. It’s not funny. It kills. It traumatises people to suicide. But that doesn’t stop Caitlin rinsing the 90s of all its “ew, you’ve got AIDS” type jibes. Here’s a small collection for your perusal (via @eurovicious)

HOW IS THIS ACCEPTABLE? HOW IS THIS WOMAN ALLOWED TO REPRESENT FEMINISM? How can you defend her?

Equal opportunities are for all including those who have an AIDS/HIV status. Why should they be made to feel a certain way so that Caitlin can have a go at ‘humour’?

I’ve been trolled the fuck out of since January, where I have had rape threats, where people have remarked on my appearance and my background. THAT IS TROLLING. They’re not concerned with my politics, or my beliefs, they object to my very presence. They probably hate the fact that I am a woman, or that I am brown and so their interactions routinely focus on these personal attributes. I haven’t once commented on Caitlin’s appearance. I did however respond to her “literally not giving a shit” about me and others like me. I do respond to her ignoramus articles but then I do the same for her peers too. They cannot just be allowed to write whatever bullshit they feel they can make fly that day. Or if that is the case, then we must have the right to respond. Twitter is the platform with which to do that, yet they want to take it away from us?

Why?

*There is a fuckoload of transphobia/homophobia in that Storify link but you knew that already

** I refer to threats made against me as trolling. Obviously this differs somewhat from other people might consider trolling but I’ve had no recourse to discussing what these threats mean and how they may be more serious than your regular nuisance troll.

*** Oh, she apologised did she? So did I. Without prompt. But nobody cared.