I didn’t expect my first contact with Jessica Valenti, a feminist trailblazer I admire, to begin with a request to “unblock” me & an explanation that I’m not a stalker.
It’s a sad commentary on the state of our rape culture when I can’t reach out to another feminist without being auto-blocked by software necessitated by virulent online hatred. Being a newbie social media networker, my first entrée to Twitter had been a post with several @ mentions of feminists I respect. Unfortunately, this got me auto-blocked by more than one.
The misogyny roadblock is so embedded in our culture, it permeates into the very ways women network with each other.
Valenti could not have been nicer about it when I contacted her, and I was “unblocked” (hooray!). But the incident has left me with a lasting impression of the protective bubbles needed around feminist activists. I am new to Twitter but I’ve already been attacked by men online who’ve threatened rape. One said “drink my cum you fat whore.” I cannot even begin to imagine what it has been like for Valenti, who in a recent Washington Post article, stated “You can’t get called a cunt day in, day out for 10 years and not have that make a really serious impact on your psyche.” If you are experiencing online harassment, EverydayFeminism offers great tips for dealing with trolls.
The Washington Post called online trolling an “incessant, violent, sneering, sexualized hatred.” We cannot give in to this systematic oppression! I agree with @Glosswitch who said: “My feminism is not about being afraid.” The woman who started the #YesAllWomen hashtag received rape threats and death threats. She needed to take time and space to recover. Today she is strong enough to hold her ground and say:
“We are here. We are speaking. I am here. This is my mouth. This is my voice. You cannot silence me.”
If the attacks from trolls weren’t bad enough, feminists are attacking each other, pointing fingers, and saying ‘that’s not feminism.” We need to find a way to stop judging each other. Feminism is simply the belief in political, social, and economic equality. In my opinion, anyone who supports this concept is and should be included and invited to the “feminist” club. When it comes to activism, one would think you can use all the help you can get. So why are we turning on each other?
A feminist is a person of any sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, class, or ability who supports EQUALITY.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie advised that “feminism should be a big, raucous INCLUSIVE party.” She also warned against prohibiting male support: “men are not bad, they are privileged. Privilege blinds because it’s the nature of privilege to blind.” Men who can see their privilege and support equality are welcome, and we need them as allies!
There are, however, massive divisions within feminism that need to stop. Glosswatch, a feminist blog, states:
“We want to be able to blame ‘the wrong kind of feminist’ for everything,from slut-shaming to transphobia to the murder of sex workers…The truth is that feminism is not about exclusion, or irrevocable judgment, or leaving others exposed to physical danger…It does not always feel protective – how could it? But it can be respectful, kind and humane, and it should also be brave.”
Racism (White Feminism™)
Many White Feminists™ have done a lot of damage to the movement by being blind to their privilege and thus unable to see, hear, validate, or advocate for the concerns of Women of Color. If you are white, you need to educate your damn self because too many of our sisters are suffering. You can start with these 50 examples of white privilege. Denise Clay articulates the frustration by Women of Color in having to stand alone without White Feminist support: “We’re getting more than a little tired of having us and our issues ignored unless they happen to dovetail with what you find important.” Tiffanie Drayton explains that “while white women fight for the right to work, minority women beg for the right to not.”
Informative blogs abound that explain how the “concerns of Women of Color are trivialized & dismissed. Women of Color are attacked, and major white feminist writers and voices turn their backs.” Take for example, Patricia Arquette’s tone-deaf comments at the Oscars. After speaking about the need for wage equality in her acceptance speech, she elaborated backstage that it was time for “all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.” The backlash was immediate and justified, hilariously and eloquently summarized in Gazi Kodzo’s video. Unfortunately there’s been a long history of White Feminists™ championing their own causes while ignoring the concerns of Women of Color.
Racism within feminism is as real and disgusting as online trolling.
The Media celebrates White Feminists far more often than Black Feminists for the same activism. The media reports on crimes against Black men yet ignores crimes against Black women. This recently prompted the #SayHerName movement. Black Feminists feel so excluded that many embrace Alice Walker’s term “womanist” instead. It’s not enough to suffer sexism and racism, to add insult to injury, having other women not stand with you has to feel infuriating.
Kesiena Boom says one issue is White Feminists making false equivalencies between racism and other oppressions, like saying “I understand how you feel when you experience racism. I’m gay/have ginger hair/have a hearing impairment.” Brittney Cooper elaborated on different racial agendas: “White feminism is about equality; Black feminism demands justice.”
SWERFS vs. Sex Workers
Sex-Worker-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminists believe sex workers should not be included in the feminism movement. SWERFS see sex workers as having internalized oppression, and judge their work as degrading to all women. Prostitution has long been considered an embodiment of the patriarchy. The opposing view is that sex work can empower women and allow them to express their sexuality, with the “danger of exploitation” blamed on “the criminalization and stigmatization of sex work in our society.” Kelly Bell says “the right to control our sexuality is as essential to feminism as the right to control our reproduction. Any law that denies a women’s control over her body is a law that labels women as second-class citizens and places them under the control of men…it is not prostitution itself that allows men control of women, but prostitution laws.”
Recent articles in the New Yorker and Bitch magazine summarize the rift between Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminists and transgender women. Radical feminists believe only those born with a vagina are ‘real women’, thus enforcing the classic gender binary. They would not consider themselves TERFS and actually see the word TERF as a slur. Some TERFS have doxxed, trolled, picketed, and abused transgender women. The hate crimes committed by TERFS are terrible and, like all hate crimes, should be prosecuted.
The everyday whorephobia blog encapsulated it: “sex workers and trans people are dying because of the stigma against them, it is time for all people who oppose bigotry and prejudice to stand up against it.” Tolerance doesn’t mean agreeing with the validity of the other person’s belief, it means allowing them to follow their beliefs without oppression or discrimination.
Feminism is for EVERYONE who supports political, social, and economic EQUALITY. As Shae Collins wrote, we need to “rid feminism of its former stench of exclusivity by making it more inclusive.” How can we all fight misogyny and patriarchy together if we keep fighting each other? United we stand; divided we fall.