Mean Girls

What I learnt this week

On the 23rd January 2013 I made a terrible mistake. It was a duvet day because I was in a fair bit of pain due to a spinal injury. I knocked a cocktail of drugs back and settled under the covers so I could Twitter. After a skim read of the timeline, I posed a tweet to Mary Beard. I mistakenly accused her of racism. Out of nowhere I was met with a tweet from Helen Lewis who demanded I prove it. Still none the wiser to my mistake, Helen’s tweet got my back up. It’s what they say when they know your proof won’t matter. But Helen had prompted me to think about what I had just tweeted and so I thought I had better make sure.

On realising exactly how big a mistake I made, I immediately apologised. I wasn’t cajoled, I wasn’t defiant, I was honest. And I believed I deserved the fallout taking over my mentions. I bowed my head in shame but I was determined to turn it into a positive thing. I was grateful for the amicable respectful exchanges between me and Mary. I chose not to delve too deeply into what people were saying about me, I didn’t have the spoons. After many requests from fellow tweeters, Helen agreed to delete the storified set of events. I thought it was because she understood that I had meant no malice. I also thought she might have understood that even though she was fighting with my peers on all matters regarding intersectionality, this incident was separate. It wasn’t in any way connected with her other battles. But she saw an opportunity. If she could make an example of how terribly wrong it can sometimes go, it maintains the power structure and status quo. Rather we have 100000s of ethnics suffer real racism than let one white person be wrongly accused.

On the 15th April 2013, I found that Helen’s storify piece was still online. I was stunned. Why would someone agree to delete something only to republish without ever informing you? What were her intentions? When I went to ask her, I discovered I was blocked. After a while I was made aware it was something to do with a blog and the storify had been up for a couple of weeks. My friends politely asked her to reconsider and instead, she left Twitter. It was only when she’d done this that I saw she’d written a piece that day. I still haven’t read it because people believe the ‘bullying’ she received in response to the piece was the reason she ‘flounced’. It wasn’t. It’s because she was challenged and she couldn’t justify what she’d done. I hadn’t blogged about her; I just tagged her on a criticism of a New Statesman piece.

She wants to silence intersectionality. That’s what the offending blog was about. A NS writer had pondered on the least privileged women of them all and I had nominated my mother. It was heartfelt and for that, Helen Lewis decided I’d take the bullet. How many of us have discussed intersectionality in recent months? Why is a 3 month old incident being dredged up to prove her point that privilege is being silenced? Am I the best argument you have against true equality? “Don’t listen to those stupid deranged idiots, they lie or they make things up.”  Except I didn’t lie, I made a mistake. One I publicly acknowledged and apologised for.

But she has her allies. Anya Palmer seems to want to stalk my every move on Twitter. She never speaks to me, just hangs over my shoulder, waiting for the money shot. She seems to revel in the fact that the incident caused me embarrassment. Of course it would, I don’t make a habit of hurting people unnecessarily.  There have been all manner of eggs tweeting racist, ableist, sexist shit at me, somehow strengthening my resolve against all who seek to undermine me. The course of events has quickly spiralled into the honest truth of it all. My feminism is not their feminism. Mine is intersectional. Theirs is bullshit. Their feminism is about: never changing, never thinking, denying privilege as if it’s a zero sum game. All positions are positions of privilege- like the way racing cars start on a sliding scale. You could have the fastest car in the world, but if you’re last you’re gonna have to pull a miracle out of the bag to make it work. I may have had an abusive childhood but I also fit the patriarchal ideal of a cis gendered woman. I may have not had a formal education but I can grasp new concepts without too much trouble. Some people can walk through life carrying their baggage, some people are crushed by it, just getting up in the morning brings back painful memories and triggers etc.  It’s also about justifying using hurtful words because they can’t be bothered to think about their power.

The Mean Girls piece spoke of scary wimminz who attack well known wimminz and we shouldn’t cos sisterhood and that. Well, when we attack the famous ones, we have a few hundred people at most fighting our corner. When the commentariat attack us little people, they have many more thousands poised to crush us. That, my friend, is privilege. All of the arguments the non-intersectional feminists have made in recent months regarding solidarity and the bigger picture, fuck that. This incident has proven that it is not so much we’re all in this together but they will actively stifle any dissent. Just like my mothers and grandmothers before me. “Pipe down now brownie”.

When Helen Lewis showed us words she’d been called, it transpired that she had been searching for her name (lurking, again) and discovered two feminist women using gendered slurs.  Two tweets she had to go looking for. Two WOMEN she was not afraid to make an example of. When I received tweets, they were from accounts set up to hound me, mainly men. I’ve had lot of white ‘opinions’ on this. All of them have also referred to me as some kind of cunt or whore. A few think it’s ok to mock me for my disabilities. And all of them simply do not get, why I, as a woman of colour would feel this in any way than every other time a white person has made me feel shit. I had 5000 views of my blog the other day. Imagine how many comments. People are also searching for information on my family and ex partners names.  It is telling that Helen’s most vocal advocate is a prolific misogynist hellbent on securing an apology from me. If at one time I would have considered approaching this is in a calm and reasonable manner to make amends with my cisters, that opportunity is long gone. The commentariat are quick to identify and expose dissenters, launching their mobs at us with full force but somehow, condemning abuse from a misogynist would be drawing unnecessary attention to us. They suggest they are ‘protecting us’ by not calling out abusive behaviour committed by the patriarchy against another woman.

Nice one Helen Lewis, solidarity from one feminist to another feminist on an entirely even keel in this fuck up a world.