Feminism exists so that no woman ever has to face her oppressor in a vacuum, alone. It exists to breakdown the privacy in which men rape, beat, and kill women. What I am saying is that every one of us has the responsibility to be the woman Marc Lepine wanted to murder. We need to live with that honor, that courage. We need to put fear aside. We need to endure. We need to create. We need to resist, and we need to stop dedicating the other 364 days of the year to forgetting everything we know. We need to remember every day, not only on December 6. We need to consecrate our lives to what we know and to our resistance to the male power used against us.
Andrea Dworkin on the mass murder in Montreal where 14 female students were murdered by anti-feminist Marc Lepine on Dec. 6, 1989
QotD: “I would love to know, if it’s not the artificially constructed social status bestowed on them due to their biological sex under patriarchy, what left-wing men think makes any of them *not* women.”
I would love to know, if it’s not the artificially constructed social status bestowed on them due to their biological sex under patriarchy, what left-wing men think makes any of them *not* women. What do they assume they have/feel/think that women don’t?
I honestly don’t see any essential difference between me and these men beyond a) my female body and b) their social privilege. But obviously they have some magic qualities they just can’t bear to reveal.
The Guardian, yet again, is calling a commercially raped child a ‘sex worker’.
In this article on Cyntoia Brown, who was first trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation at the age of sixteen, the first paragraph says this:
Celebrities including Rihanna, Cara Delevingne and Kim Kardashian West are calling for freedom from prison for a woman who was 16 years old when she killed a man who hired her as a sex worker.
At this point I can’t believe this is an accident; this is very deliberate, partisan language, “hired her as a sex worker”, not even “hired her for sex”, as if the situation was just a bug in the otherwise benign system of ‘sex work’.
I have written to the Guardian many times on this subject, and not ever received a reply (the Observer does better). Please feel free to use or adapt the below template:
I am writing to you, yet again, to complain about your use of the term ‘sex work’ in relation to a commercially sexually exploited child (in the article ‘Cyntoia Brown: celebrities call for victim of sex trafficking to be freed’ published online today).
Brown was sixteen years old when she was commercially raped (and had been sexually abused from a younger age), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises anyone under the age of eighteen as a child, regardless of local age of consent laws. In New Zealand, where the sex industry has been decriminalised, only people over the age of eighteen can legally consent to ‘sex work’, so there is no justification to refer to Brown as a ‘sex worker’.
This use of language is harmful, it invisibilises the abusive system in which Brown was exploited, and invisibilises the role sex buyers play in this system. By calling Brown a ‘sex worker’ you sanitise the man who paid to rape her as someone merely engaging in a commercial transaction, rather than a predator who targeted the most vulnerable children.
The Guardian keeps asking for subscribers, I will not give you a penny while you continue to sanitise the harm done to vulnerable children, young people, and adults by uncritically using the term ‘sex work’ to describe commercial sexual exploitation.
In The Guardian this week, lawyer and writer Shon Faye claims “trans people in Britain have recently been subjected to a media onslaught” — an almost laughable irony, if it weren’t so dishonest. The truth is that, while indeed many women and journalists in the UK have been covering and speaking out about questions surrounding the transitioning of children, proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, potential conflicts between gender identity legislation and women’s rights, and the attacks on those who question gender identity ideology, these articles and that activism do not by any stretch constitute an attack on trans-identified people.
By contrast, this week, a talk by author of Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body and spokeswoman for the Women’s Equality Party, Heather Brunskell-Evans, on pornography and the sexualization of young women was cancelled after she questioned the practice of transitioning children. A couple of weeks ago, a lecture journalist Julie Bindel was scheduled to give about her new book, The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth, at St. Edward’s University in Texas was cancelled, due supposedly to her arguments around gender identity and support for woman-only space. Anne Ruzylo, a woman’s officer with the Labour Party was subjected to months of bullying by a fellow party member, and smeared as “transphobic.” Pushed to resign last week, every member of the executive committee quit in solidarity with Ruzylo, though the young trans-identified male responsible for the harassment was elected as women’s officer in his local party shortly thereafter. Last month, Linda Bellos, a longtime lesbian feminist activist, was uninvited from speaking at Cambridge University after saying she planned to publicly question “some of the trans politics … which seems to assert the power of those who were previously designated male to tell lesbians, and especially lesbian feminists, what to say and what to think.”
In other words, it is very clear who is under attack within the transgender debate: women.
QotD: All Labour officials on local committee resign in support of colleague who was ‘bullied by transgender activist for months’
Every member of a local Labour Party executive committee has quit in support of a colleague who was allegedly bullied by a transgender rights campaigner.
The unnamed male activist is said to have harassed women’s officer Anne Ruzylo for months after they disagreed over ‘gender identity’ issues.
Miss Ruzylo, 52, claims the fellow party member carried out a smear campaign against her.
A leaked letter revealed the committee all resigned over what they believe to be Labour’s failure to deal with ‘disciplinary complaints’ regarding the reported abuse.
The six executive committee members in Bexhill and Battle, East Sussex, wrote that the alleged bullying had ‘seriously damaged’ their ability to function, and they had been forced to spend their time ‘being siphoned away into internal disciplinary matters’ instead of ‘fighting the Tories’.
‘We have been deeply disappointed by a lack of meaningful, timely and decisive action from regional and national party structures to support the executive committee in addressing these disciplinary issues,’ the letter added.
The unidentified activist, who is not transgender but is a passionate supporter of those who are, allegedly tried to prevent Miss Ruzylo, from Bexhill-on-Sea, from voicing her concerns at meetings. He supports Government plans to reform the legal definition of man and woman, but Miss Ruzylo believes critics’ fears of appearing politically incorrect could prevent proper scrutiny of the legislation.
Former prison officer Miss Ruzylo, who is a lesbian, told The Times she felt ‘violated’, adding that the way she had been silenced was ‘disgusting’.
She added: ‘Debate is not hate. If we can’t talk about gender laws and get shut down on that, what’s next? We’re going back to the days of McCarthyism. It is disgraceful.’
The local Labour Party has now been left without an executive committee and will have to call an early AGM to elect new members. Bexhill and Battle is a Conservative constituency.
A Labour South-East spokesman insisted the party took all complaints ‘extremely seriously’ and had ‘robust procedures’.
According to a new study, feminist theory can help treat anorexia. That comes as no surprise to me, based on my own experience of trying to vanish, one skipped meal at a time. Researchers at the University of East Anglia trialled a 10-week programme with seven inpatients at a centre in Norwich. They used Disney films, social media, news articles and adverts to talk about the social expectations and constructs of gender, how we view women’s bodies and how we define femininity. They spoke about the way we portray appetite, hunger and anger, as well as the ways we objectify women’s bodies.
Researchers published a paper in the journal Eating Disorders that suggested patients improved because they felt less to blame for their own condition. This makes complete sense. When I was 15 years old, I spent six weeks in an eating disorders clinic in Sydney. Staring at those pallid pistachio-coloured walls on my own in a cell-like room, I felt as though I may never recover. My emaciated companions and I were under the care of a former prison warden turned eating disorders nurse, who made sure we stuck to our strict daily routine of three meals, three snacks, two therapy sessions, no taking the stairs. I wasn’t alone in that fear of eternal sickness; recovery is elusive for many sufferers, and perhaps the cruellest part of the process is that anorexia convinces you that you don’t even want to get better.
Then, one day, we were allowed to go on a group outing. We filed in, rather miserably, to an enormous top-floor book shop. We were directed to the self-help section, but I took a sneaky detour to gender studies. There, among the Naomi Wolfs and the Germaine Greers, I felt strangely safe for once. I cherished books, I always have, and I remember stroking the spines tenderly, wishing for some sort of guidance. We were told we should get one book that day. I chose Hunger Strike by Susie Orbach.
Originally published in 1986 (just a year before I was born; a serendipity that appealed to me), it is a seminal feminist text about “the anorectic’s struggle as a metaphor for our age”. In it, Orbach argues that anorexia is both a deeply private struggle, and a very public one. Women’s bodies, she wrote, are still considered public property and so long as that stands, our desire to diminish them is a feminist issue.
To this extent the stymied liberatory potential of reproductive technology is no different to the stymied liberatory potential of any other form of technology. Products and processes are made by the rich, for the rich, liberating those who are, in relative terms, already free. It’s not just that poorer women and women of colour have reduced access to abortion and contraception, or that some members of these groups have endured forced sterilisation, that is, reproductive technology actively used as a means of oppression. Egg donation, IVF, womb transplants and global surrogacy all now mean that wealthy white women can, should they so wish, outsource the very roots of sex-based oppression to their less privileged sisters.
Of course even this only works to a certain degree. Patriarchy remains invested in maintaining a stranglehold on the means of reproduction.
Consider this – if you accept that being biologically female is compatible with having an inner life, you have to apply this universally. Under such conditions no reproductive injustice – denial of abortion or contraception, forced sterilisation, economic coercion regarding having/not having children, disregard of maternal mortality – is justifiable. Forced pregnancy or sterilisation is always barbaric. Therefore, if you are to justify such barbarism where convenient, you must also promote the relative dehumanisation of everyone born with a womb (or a vagina, with the associated assumption that one might just have a womb).
Even if womb transplants and artificial wombs become everyday possibilities, the bodies of those already born with wombs will remain cheaper (providing we continue to place a low value on such people’s lives). It’s entirely plausible to see a world in which reproductive technologies increase the options of the privileged – gestate if you want, rent a surrogate or an artificial womb if you want – while doing nothing to raise the status of the most marginalised.
IVF, the pill, sterilisation, womb transplants and artificial wombs are not inherently anti-female; the problem is that economic and political power lies mostly with men, and with only a small proportion of highly privileged women. Of course the privileged will ask “what’s in it for me?” Of course their priority will be to use these things to their advantage. The priority for feminists needs to be to hang on to these possibilities while continuing to challenge the idea that those who (potentially) gestate are in all other ways inferior beings.
It’s easy to present feminists who want to talk about reproduction as luddites. They “reduce women to their biology, just like men’s rights activists”. Quite obviously we are more than our wombs. There’s a whole thinking, feeling, acting, unique person who just so happens to have been born with a uterus. But we still need to talk about the relationship between our social status and our potential reproductive role, not least because it’s of fundamental importance to a truly intersectional feminism. The regulation of female reproductive bodies has been used to maintain not just gender, but class and racial hierarchies. It needs to end.
Audre Lorde described herself as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”. A writer of the 70s and 80s, this month her poetry and prose is published in the UK for the first time in a new anthology: Your Silence Will Not Protect You. Akwugo Emejulu, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick discusses the resurgent interest in Lorde’s work and her importance to contemporary activists