I was there when a lesbian pride march got picketed by bigots

Content note: this post discusses transmisogyny

Over the last few years, I’ve regularly attended London’s Dyke March. It’s important to me to be with my sisters who also love women, out in the streets showing our solidarity and strength. The march organisers are brilliant, ensuring maximum turnout by pursuing an inclusive policy: all dykes are welcome.

In the light of this inclusive policy, it was only a matter of time till bigots tried to disrupt this annual dyke demonstration. I’d heard rumours of some sort of presence from bigots online, who objected to the inclusive stance of the organisers and their proactive selection of diverse dykes outside of the traditional cis white lesbian speaker selection. At this point, some women, including my girlfriend, were put off from going on the march. I don’t blame these women at all: the last thing anyone wants at a day celebrating queer women’s identity is a confrontation with bigots. I imagine this is exactly why the bigots publicly threatened to show up, to put women off from coming. There’s a full summary of what they did before the march here, if you want to see their tactics.

On the day, my friends and I arrived late, running predictably on queer time. Luckily, the march, being run by queer women, was also running on queer time, so we hadn’t missed the speeches. We grabbed a spot near the stage. I looked around, unsure as to whether the bigots would have turned up.

As the speeches started, I realised with a sinking feeling that they had. A silver-haired woman handed me a leaflet. Through the block of text, I could see that it was transmisogynistic conspiracy theorising about Sarah Brown, one of the speakers. I ripped it in half. They held up placards, revealing their obsession with genitals. They yelled misogynistic and transmisogynistic slogans over a speaker, as the rest of the crowd shuffled away and told them to shut up. In all, I think there were five or six of them, and one of them was literally wearing a fedora.

I’d seen all this before. I have seen this sort of thing outside abortion clinics, where Catholics try to harass women seeking access to abortion. I have seen it at Pride, where every year bigots show up to picket queer people gathering together and being themselves.

A lot of TERfs claim to be political lesbians, but if that’s the case, why are they picketing London’s only lesbian pride parade? Why are they attempting to disrupt a gathering of queer women? Why did they try and stop dykes from joining with their sisters in solidarity?

It was clear that they were not here as fellow lesbians, which was evidenced by the fact that they did not participate in the march itself. They just showed up to try and wreck the event. I consider their intervention an act of lesbophobic violence.

I cannot say I’m surprised that this happened. In women’s circles, transmisogyny is too often treated as a kind of abstract intellectual difference. Let it be known that it is not: it is a belief system which directly leads to attempting to disrupt lesbian pride and solidarity.


Some musings on love (and gender)

If asked to, how would you define love? Would you rattle off the ways you express it? A touch of a hand, a kiss, wiping a snotty nose and brushing their hair? Would you maybe try and explain how it feels to you? A kind of rising feeling from the bottom of your stomach that crashes all over you, a sense of gladly doing anything for that person, an overwhelming closeness? Would you think about the different kinds, and how different it is between comrades, parents, lovers?

It’s difficult, isn’t it, and that’s because ultimately it’s something of a silly question because every single one of these answers is a correct and valid answer. We know that it’s something so beautifully complex and so completely personal that no definition would ever be sufficient. We know that there’s no real universal answers, as much as some would like there to be. Science thinks it can answer this question by reducing the matter down to hormones and evolutionary purposes, and we can see that this isn’t the full picture. The state tries to define it for us, and the best of us react with disgust, because this is simply co-opting something to serve their own purposes.

It’s only the worst sort of bigot who makes up a definition of love and rigidly enforces it on others. The rest of us are kind of content to let others make up their own meaning, knowing and celebrating the diversity of feeling. It’s almost intuitive, thinking about love that way, so why do we have so much trouble thinking about gender on similar terms?

When it comes to gender, there’s also no right or wrong answers, no definition that can ever be universally applicable. This is not a problem: far from it. It’s exciting. It’s mysterious. It’s deeply personal, just like love is. And I for one think that’s brilliant.


Avoiding Murdoch.

I wrote something for the European Initiative for Media Pluralism on how avoiding Murdoch takes a lot more than just taping up your letterbox.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

Or rather, this fortnight. Getting a little lax on these. Been working a new job, in case you missed it. Definitely worth signing this petition. Anyway, here’s some things I’ve been reading.

On Whether You Have A Right To Sex (girlonthenet)- This really shouldn’t need to be said, but it’s said well.

On Continuing to Live In the Same World that Made Elliot Rodger (and Many Like Him) (Rachel)- Beautiful piece about living under misogyny.

Maya Angelou: a phenomenal woman (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- A touching obituary for a remarkable woman.

5 Reflections on the European Election Results (Novara)- Useful analysis of what happened.

Trigger warnings and toothpicks. (sometimes, it’s just a cigar)- On the importance of trigger warnings.

An open letter to privileged people who play devil’s advocate (Juliana)- Are you this dick? Don’t be this dick.

Brown beauty: from TV to the high st the beauty industry is still racist (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- Reni explores the racism in the beauty industry.

No country for young women: Honour crimes and infanticide in Ireland (Stephanie Lord)- Disturbing and upsetting, important to know.

Not All Men, Redux. (That Pesky Feminist)- I wish we didn’t need to keep saying this, but Tilly says it so goddamn well.

 

 


Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: I don’t dwell on your genitals

Content note: This post discusses transmisogyny

At the age of about three, I used to go around asking every person I met the same question: “Do you have a willy or a vagina?” This, I learned very quickly, was not a polite thing to say to people, so I stopped. In an ideal world, everyone would have grown out of wondering what other people’s genitals look like at around that age. We do not live in an ideal world.

See, there’s two broad groups of people who are still fascinated with what other people have under their clothes: misogynists and transmisogynists. Among misogynists, it’s a classic male entitlement to sex: they believe our bodies to be public property and they are therefore allowed access to every inch of them. Among transmisogynists, it can be a bit more complicated, as many of them happen to be women. They make a litany of excuses, conveniently forgetting that rape isn’t just about penis to attempt to excuse their obsession with other people’s genitals. However, ultimately, it’s all about entitlement nonetheless. They genuinely feel entitled to know the precise configuration of everyone else’s private parts.

It seems so alien to me. When I’m out and about, I’m generally not dwelling on what sort of genitals everyone around me might have. When I spend time with women, I’m not sitting there constructing a mental map of what their genitals might look like. When I shower or swim with women, I’m not gawping at their genitals, because frankly, that’s just rude.

I’ve known for a long time that men are often thinking about my cunt, and that’s why I don’t really enjoy the company of men that much. Knowing that there are women who do this too makes me feel less safe in women’s spaces, like they might just suddenly ask me about my cunt or grab at my crotch to make sure I have correctly-shaped equipment.

This feeling that I have pales into insignificance compared to what trans women go through. If you think trans women don’t get sexually assaulted in order to verify what their genitals look like, you’re wrong. This is a very real threat that women face due to societal fascination with something which should be completely private and up to the owner of said genitals to share or not.

There are precisely two times in live when someone else’s genitals are really relevant. The first is if you are a medical professional and someone needs some medical assistance with their genitals, something which, for the vast majority of us, is never going to be the case. The other is during sex, and even then it really doesn’t matter exactly which way they point. People say “oh, but I just don’t like penises/vulvas”, but that, too, is rooted in cissexism and general poor sex education. You can have sex–great sex–with someone with a penis without any penetration whatsoever. You can have brilliant sex with someone with a vulva with plenty of penetration. I instinctively distrust anyone who professes a dislike for a certain type of genitals: it usually means they’re either cissexist, or completely lack imagination in bed, or both of those things.

I cannot believe I’ve just had to write a blog about how generally disinterested I am in what your genitals look like, but I feel it’s necessary to punch through what risks becoming a dominant discourse. Returning to dwelling on what someone’s genitals look like does not help feminism one little bit: in fact, it sets us way, way back. It can be hard, unlearning the fascination with genitals in a generally genital-fascinated society, but for the sake of a feminism which does not equate women to walking vaginas, it’s utterly essential.


An open letter to all men

Content note: this post discusses violence against women and misogyny

Dear men,

I’m addressing every single one of you. If you think this isn’t for you, it probably is. If you’re itching to complain that I’m making generalisations, this is definitely for you. Sit down, shut up, and maybe try not to prove me right.

It’s been in the news that Elliot Rodger murdered six people because women weren’t giving him the time of day. I’ve seen you struggling to make sense of this, putting what he did down to mental illness, or neurodiversity, or being mixed race, or even being a repressed gay man. You’ve been twisting the truth to make it seem like he’s not like you, that he’s a deviant.

You’re wrong. Elliot Rodger murdered six people because of a feeling that all men are taught to feel. Elliot Rodger murdered six people because he felt entitled to sex and emotional labour from women. Elliot Rodger murdered six people because, like all men, he was taught he had every right to feel angry at not getting his own way.

We were all born and raised under patriarchy. These beliefs about men and women are prevalent. You can trace a direct line between that sense of entitlement and Elliot Rodger murdering six people. You can also trace this direct line between that sense of entitlement and much of the other violence men inflict upon women: the rapes, the beatings, the random acts of street harassment.

By now, your fingers are probably twitching with the urge to scream NOT ALL MEN ARE LIKE THIS. I can almost feel your agitation, and your desire to say this. Guess what? That desire to burst in and announce NOT ALL MEN is tied in to that self-same sense of entitlement. You say it because you feel entitled to my time and attention. You say it because it horrifies you that I might feel negatively to you and you want to show off what a nice guy you really are.

Last night, I talked about this on Twitter, and was deluged with men screaming NOT ALL MEN. Take a look at your brothers. Take a look at the level of misogyny seeping from all men who screech NOT ALL MEN.

It’s easier to say that not all men think like Elliot Rodger, because that stops you having to worry about structural misogyny. You can pretend to yourself that you’re a special snowflake who is above all of that. The truth is frightening: sure, you probably haven’t murdered anyone, but that doesn’t mean that you have a hell of a lot in common with that mass murderer. Instead of trying to distance yourself from Elliot Rodger, you need to take a long and hard inventory of the things that make you alike. Only then can you kill the Elliot Rodger inside your head.

I’m sick of you men whinging that you’re not all like this. Every time you do, it makes you seem all the more similar to me, a writhing mass of entitled misogyny. You need to accept this problem that you have and solve it rather than continuing along this path. End your complicity now.

NOTE ON COMMENTS: I’ve not been moderating comments like I usually do, because they all kind of prove me right. Content note for misogyny, racism and disablism because men are pigs.


Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

So, I didn’t do a round-up last week, because it was my birthday. This is hardly a bumper issue of round-up either, because I have some good life news: I have a job for the next few months. And as part of my job, I’m going to encourage you all to get angry about who owns the media: the power is horribly concentrated among a few very rich people, which is why it all sucks so hard. You can read about the full extent of the problem here, and if it pisses you off, sign and share this petition to get the issue on the agenda in Europe.

Back to your regularly scheduled link round-up of some things I read.

I was arrested 75 times: how violent policing destroys mental health (Emily Apple)- Must-read article on a sadly all-too-common policing tactic.

Why Ed Miliband (and almost everyone else) defended Nigel Farage as “not-racist” (justinthelibsoc)- A reminder of the general structural racism of politics.

Anti-Fascism One Year On From The Lee Rigby Murder (South London Anti Fascists)- A short examination of the current state of affairs, and what we need to respond to.

Not All Men, a Villanelle (Ideology)- Basically says what we’re all thinking, jauntily.

Strategic misogyny- Initiative collating stories of sexism in academia.

Please don’t describe my work as ‘eloquent’ (Reni Eddo-Lodge)- Reni explains the racism and classism underlying the word “eloquent”.

The Dangers of a Single Book Cover: The Acacia Tree Meme and “African literature” (Africa is a Country)- I hadn’t noticed this racist trope until this article put it across really neatly.

On bell, Beyonce’, and Bullshit (Crunk Feminist Collective)- This post nails it and you should read it.

Why we can’t have nice things: A Gender Week post-mortem (Roz Kaveney)- Roz looks at what went wrong.

Breaking Barriers: Why I’m Just Not Angry at HIV+ Porn (Kitty Stryker)- An excellent post on porn and stigma and STIs.

My speech for the Manchester IDAHOBIT vigil (Jen Tumblring)- Always worth remembering biphobia exists.

While Writing for ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ I Realized I Am Gay (Lauren Morelli)- Rather touching coming-out story.

Brain studies find that concern for justice and equality is linked to logic, not emotion. (Lisa Wade)- Short overview of the science. Worth noting that even if it had turned out this was driven by emotion it wouldn’t make it any less valid.

And finally, a livestream of some kittens named after Douglas Adams characters. Look at their tiny noses!


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