Scold’s bridle

On Saturday evening I was on twitter, discussing the criminal conviction of those who threatened Caroline Criado-Perez with rape. There are many ways in which people excuse the abuse of women – she asked for it, she wanted it, she’s lying – but here’s one I hadn’t heard before: Criado-Perez was just a privileged white feminist victimising working class people for whom rape threats are a normal part of everyday discourse.

This struck me as one of those bigotry double whammies, reminiscent of a Ceefax letter I once read, claiming that if the UK hadn’t legalised abortion we wouldn’t need all those bloody immigrants. Just as someone there used racism to justify their anti-choice position, here someone was using classism to justify rape threats. Marvellous! There’s an infinite number of ways you can play one prejudice off against another, or even double them up, and in this case you can even pretend you’re on the side of the underclass (poor working class people, they do not know what they do etc.). And so I tweeted this:

So that was that, at least until mid-morning on a Sunday when my tweet was discovered by the twitter feminism police and deemed to be racist, transphobic, privileged, offensive etc. Hence a whole heap of shit came my way.

Obviously I’m really sorry I sent that tweet. Only kidding. I’m not, not in the slightest. I’ll use sarcasm and hyperbole if I want to. I’ll use whatever means I choose to call out the self-aggrandising bullshit of those who excuse rape threats, patronise and slander those whom they’ve characterised as “the marginalised” and dare to think of themselves as feminist to boot. If other people decide to read that tweet out of context, twist it and use it as an excuse to intimidate me then frankly they should be ashamed of themselves. And I would just leave it at that but this isn’t an isolated event. This kind of bullying, misrepresentation and lying happens to feminists all the time and I, for one, am furious.

I know what you’re thinking. But it’s structural. You have to put the language you used within a broader context of oppression. Damn right I will, and here’s that context: I was not misrepresented and name-called because of anything I wrote. I was misrepresented and name-called for two reasons: 1. I’m a woman, and 2. I have a New Statesman blog and am therefore considered  excessively “privileged”. If that doesn’t sound sufficiently humble I don’t care. Lately, in ways I don’t tend to blog about, I’ve been through enough. Right now I’m done with the female social code that commands me to express shame at myself, assume good faith in cruel people and deny my own qualities just so that my presence isn’t too disruptive.

This abuse is because I am a woman, not because I am a white woman. I do not believe reverse racism exists, whereas misogyny clearly does. However, this abuse does need to be placed in the context of “white feminism” – after all, it’s a phrase I used in my tweet – because it’s related to the shorthand people use for a particular type of perceived female privilege (as though privilege is not a shifting, intersecting thing that everyone with access to twitter enjoys in different ways, but a line you cross which makes you less credible, less capable of experiencing pain and less capable of acting in good faith). I know that I am seen as a white feminist in terms of political positioning, in ways that others who are just as white-skinned as me are not. I think, again, this is related to misogyny and visibility and to the idea of women such as me, who don’t succumb to the pressure to create a tragic narrative out of their own twitter bio, as shameless interlopers who deserve a kicking.

Analysis of what it means to be a white woman, or a white feminist, hasn’t moved on much from Catherine MacKinnon’s 1996 piece What is a white woman anyway? There, she gives a strong summary of the misogynist mischaracterisation of white female experience (again I’d stress this is misogyny, not racism):

This creature is not poor, not battered, not raped (not really), not molested as a child, not pregnant as a teenager, not prostituted, not coerced into pornography, not a welfare mother, and not economically exploited. She doesn’t work. […] She is Miss Anne of the kitchen, she puts Frederick Douglass to the lash, she cries rape when Emmet Till looks at her sideways, she manipulates white men’s very real power with the lifting of her very well-manicured little finger. […] On top of all this, out of impudence, imitativeness, pique, and a simple lack of anything meaningful to do, she thinks she needs to be liberated. Her feminist incarnation is all of the above, and guilty about every single bit of it, having by dint of repetition refined saying “I’m sorry” to a high form of art. […] Beneath the trivialization of the white woman’s subordination implicit in the dismissive sneer “straight white economically privileged women” (a phrase which has become one word, the accuracy of some of its terms being rarely documented even in law journals) lies the notion that there is no such thing as the oppression of women as such.

Today we call women such as this Helen Lewis, or Caitlin Moran, or maybe Laurie Penny (how dare you write about your own hair!). We dehumanise them, calling their pain “cis white tears”. We don’t allow them mistakes. We are grossly, rampantly misogynist about them but this form of misogyny is supposed to be corrective, humiliating the privilege out of them. We say “we must all check our privilege” and “we must all learn” but what we really mean is “you’re privileged” and “you’re damned, you bigot”.

This doesn’t happen to men who are trying to disrupt the system but twitter and other online forums have become, for these women, the equivalent of the scold’s bridle or brank:

First recorded in Scotland in 1567, the branks were also used in England, where it may not have been formally legalized as a punishment. The kirk-sessions and barony courts in Scotland inflicted the contraption mostly on female transgressors and women considered to be “rude” or “nags” or “common scolds“.[4][5] Branking (in Scotland and the North of England)[6][7] was designed as a mirror punishment for “shrews'”or “scolds”; women of the lower classes whose speech was deemed “riotous” or “troublesome”[8]; — often women suspected of witchcraft — by preventing such “gossips or scolds” from speaking. This also gives it it’s other name ‘The Gossip’s Bridle’

What could be more “riotous” or “troublesome” than a feminist who has strength and visibility? I know what you’re thinking: a feminist who swears a lot, calls out other women, tweets pictures of her pubes and babbles on about smashing the patriarchy. But we know this isn’t true. The latter kind of feminist is ten a penny, and conservative as they come. It’s feminists who have the nerve to put honesty before radical posturing who are unsettling. Those who genuinely claim space, which is then written off as “privilege” (because what is a woman doing there?). Such women might actually make a difference. So into the bridle they go.

Of course, if you think about it for half a second, there is no point in even attempting to analyse intersections of gender, race and class if you’re not prepared to include an examination of your own misogyny, or even to admit that it exists. The woman-hatred of those who smack down “media feminists” is difficult to challenge precisely because it plays into all the sexist stereotypes outlined by MacKinnon. In addition, any challenge is portrayed as a denial of white supremacy.  As a white feminist, I would say it is easier – much, much easier – to play along with this. You get to enjoy the privilege of being white and appear superior to the “mere” white feminists who just don’t “get it”. There’s an absurdly careerist edge to this. If you view feminism not as a movement for social change, but as the route to a media career you’ve got to admit it’s a competitive arena. Using other people to play at being the best white intersectional feminist has been seen by some as a gap in the market. Donning the metaphorical tin hat to shout down “bad” peers is a USP. When you boil it down, such “feminists” are arch capitalists, seeking to commodify not just feminism but the exclusion and lived experience of others.  It is emotionally manipulative and disgracefully self-serving, but it doesn’t involve laying yourself on the line. You get to be a privileged white woman without looking like one.

I’ve done this myself (what you do is take the example of a media feminist being vilified, explain to everyone what intersectionality is and why you get it, thereby implying she doesn’t without actually referring to context, then sadly suggest you hope she’ll listen and learn, making it clear that you don’t hold out any such hope). It is easy but morally untenable, insofar as it uses ideas of intersecting oppressions not to offer context and understanding, but to reinforce privilege by the back door and to silence dissent. I think of it as a form of privilege laundering. I think it is an example of white people exploiting the narratives of women of colour and it sucks.

But now I am on the other side of that imaginary, exploitative privilege line, I see other benefits to  approaching feminism not as liberation, but as a self-interested cookie hunt. I didn’t appreciate at the time how much I shielded myself from misogyny by putting the “bad” white feminists out in front. Now I have undermined my own voice by saying the things I know to be true. Now, not only is my right to speak being questioned, not only am I being told that the more effectively I use rhetoric, the less credibility I have, not only am I being told my anger and sense of justice doesn’t matter –– all of which are everyday experiences for anyone faced with discrimination – but it is being done in the name of inclusion. None of you have the right to manage how I talk back to authority, to discredit my thought, to reposition the discrimination and oppression I seek to articulate. None of you have the right to tell me what my own words mean, to tell me what my thoughts are, to reconstruct my words and reality without my consent. None of you have the right to damage my mental health, make me doubt my capacity to think, to make me feel unable to trust anyone because of the whispering and distortion that follows. None of you have the right to do this just because I’m a feminist and, if flawed, nonetheless a bloody good one too. None of you has the right to expect perfection from me. None of you have the right to place the scold’s bridle on me, to shame and silence me because I don’t fit in with your hackneyed, conservative misreading of revolution.

Nothing I articulate will be unfamiliar to others who experience oppression in other ways. But what I experience remains unacceptable. There is no “good,” corrective sexism. To think that is simply to think that sexism is not really oppression. Interestingly, MacKinnon argues that there is a fear of not aligning yourself with another form of oppression, even at another person’s expense, “because that means being in the category with “her,” the useless white woman whose first reaction when the going gets rough is to cry”:

I sense here that people feel more dignity in being part of a group that includes men than in being part of a group that includes that ultimate reduction of the notion of oppression, that instigator of lynch mobs, that ludicrous whiner, that equality coat-tails rider, the white woman. It seems that if your oppression is also done to a man, you are more likely to be recognized as oppressed, as opposed to inferior. Once a group is seen as putatively human, a process helped by including men in it, an oppressed man falls from a human standard. A woman is just a woman–the ontological victim–so not victimized at all.

I think a skim through the twitter bios of a number of white feminists who consider themselves “more aware” than so-called media feminists makes the continuation of this misogynist impulse glaringly obvious. I don’t list all the lived experiences I have which, while I should be able to share them, I know I could misuse as “currency”. But I could. I know the lingo I’d use. It would make me more than “just” a woman, but that’s why I don’t do it. Being a woman who defines herself by her actions and words should be enough.

Obviously clicking publish on this post is not going to make me friends. I am tempted to write the responses to it in advance, to save you time, so you can copy and paste into the comments box or onto twitter. About how I don’t get it. About how I’m saying feminism should focus only on gender and not the interaction with other oppressions. About how I’m defending my white supremacy. About how I’m seeking to discredit intersectional feminism on the sly. About how I think people being mean to me is more important than those less privileged getting a voice. About how I think misogyny is structurally embedded in a way racism isn’t. Go on, take your pick and knock yourself out.  After all, you’ll never know the darkness of my soul, so why not make any possible prejudice more real than word and deed?

But know that you are not doing this for inclusion, equality, or to give the marginalised a voice. You’re doing it to silence some women because you don’t like any women. The damage you do to us is real but that’s just misogyny and the conservative impulses of the superficially radical, isn’t it? That’s not going to go away any time soon. Nevertheless, the women who answer you back sure as hell aren’t going anywhere either.


46 thoughts on “Scold’s bridle

  1. Absolutely fantastic. Nuanced and insightful analysis and never more relevant. I have seen and recognised these things to an extent, but as always you provide a much higher level of understanding.

    Sorry if this is annoying for you, but in case you are interested tiny typo paragraph 12: ‘then sadly suggest you hope she’ll listen and lean’.

    Again, wonderful.

  2. “But know that you are not doing this for inclusion, equality, or to give the marginalised a voice”


  3. Thanks for this. Always looking to read about these differing experiences and points of view (as a not-really white, cis, male), and always impressed by the passion they contain.

    Proof-checking point: in para 11-ish you say “…listen and lean”. Did you perhaps mean “…listen and learn”? (Oh god – I promise this is not me trying to tell you what you actually mean or anything like that, just a suspicion that one little flaw may have appeared in an otherwise punctiliously put together piece.)

  4. Did a search for “smugsexual”, couldn’t find it in this piece. Not mentioning that that vile term is what caused many to turn away from you in pain and betrayal is rather dishonest, no?

    And now you’ve moved on to the lovely, not-at-all-massively-unhelpful “misogofeminists” because you just can’t help coming up with nasty names to call people who don’t agree with you. Wonderful.

    I don’t know if you read Chitra Nagarajan’s excellent piece on conflict in the feminist movement. It’s an excellent piece that will have – I hope – a lasting impact.

    1. I’m still pissed off you stopped me from using smugsexual by your distortion of it. It had an important meaning, highlighting a particular way in which sexual shaming, misogyny, privilege and bigotry is hidden behind innuendo and bullying. If I could go back now, I wouldn’t renounce it as I’m through with being scared and silenced by you. If I see bigotry and hatred, I will name it.
      Now go away and learn some fucking empathy, you misogynistic bully.

      1. Oh, and if it is honesty you want – go back to the This is not intersectionality post. Was it about sexuality? Was it about marginalisation? Or was it about the shameful, colonialist, privileged bullying of people you still defend? Take a word out of context and it may mean whatever you want it to but women who speak out against oppression deserve better than this.

      2. You’re absolutely still free to use “smugsexual” if you really want to. No-one’s stopping you. We’re just equally free to point out what an utterly foul term it is. Lucky you. Lucky us.

        1. Bullying and lies do silence people. They ruin reputations. They make people silent because they know there are real consequences to the twisting of their words. Evidently you think this is a game but it isn’t. Welcome to real life.

        1. Comments like that speak volumes about a fundamental lack of humility and generosity when women you have written off try to speak. Do you have a list of feminists you hate? Or do you just refer to Jude’s? There will be women around you, people you consider your friends, who are in fear that their card is marked. When you decided to hate me it was a relief. I always knew I was on borrowed time due to my inability to condone what you do, let alone join in the pile-ins. This is not inclusion, listening, humility, recognition of privilege. You misuse all these words. You don’t need to. It’s possible to be furious at your own privilege and that of others and yet be humane.

        2. I had a look at the blog linked in that commenter’s Twitter bio, and felt sick thanks to the absolutely blatant and disgusting transphobia in it. On top of you quoting Catherine MacKinnon approvingly, it’s really not a good sign.

          I didn’t “decide to hate you” by the way – for what it’s worth, I greatly admired you and your writing up until “smugsexual” hit like a bolt from the blue. Now *that* was hurtful. Saying I “decided to hate you” like it was some arbitrary thing? Believe me, it was far from it. It’s like you’re actively trying to drive the wedge deeper now, and I just don’t understand why. What happened, Glosswitch?

        3. Jonanamary. You keep asking ‘what happened’? For someone who claims to be all about listening it seems you are not hearing. Glosswitch has been very clear. She got fed up with your righteous sniping, bullying and dehumanisation of other women in the name of ‘justice.’ It’s that simple.

    2. Do you honestly think these ‘nasty’ words exist in a vacuum? Are you reducing the intellectual output of a woman you know to be a champion of women’s rights to name-calling? Or, as you often direct other people to do, could you stop to learn and reflect? Not much reflection is actually needed, since she’s spelt out more than once where the words originated and what they mean. But learning?
      There are a group of women that you should recognise (clue – you’re in it) who specialise in demonstrating their purity of expression and absence of oppressive thought-crime over any practical manifestation of feminism. Feminism is about liberating women from the patriachy.
      It is NOT about passing rumours around twitter about who’s toxic, who’s a bigot, who’s guilty of silencing which marginalised group based on zero evidence, who’s got more privilege than whom, who’s a notorious abuser of whom (this one is often used when a woman has disagreed on a point with a member of a marginalised group…oddly enough is rarely used when a man does). Like the burst pillowcase in fable, these myths fly around Twitter and can’t be retrieved or corrected. And I have personally seen you do this, in casual, off-the-cuff remarks with barely a moment’s thought. So stop moaning because once a few months ago you didn’t like your own interpretation of the word smugsexual. Since then, reflect and learn on how many times you’ve seen hard-working feminists belittled, name-called and slurred and done nothing to stop it.

      1. “There are a group of women that you should recognise (clue – you’re in it) who specialise in demonstrating their purity of expression and absence of oppressive thought-crime over any practical manifestation of feminism.” How great that you know my life better than I do. That you know how much/little I do to tackle patriarchy IRL.

        Here’s a hint: You know *nothing* about what I do offline/elsewhere online because I very rarely speak about it. So no more inferences based on next to zero evidence. Please.

        I have yet to read anything by Glosswitch or anyone else presenting a convincing defence of “smugsexual”. And the queerphobic connotations of the word and the way GW has defined it make it frankly impossible for me to imagine any defence of it that wasn’t thoroughly illogical, hateful, and born of resentment and hurt feelings rather than any impulse to make online feminism a better place. Thinking back to Chitra Nagarajan’s brilliant piece (linked above), “smugsexual” and “misogofeminists” are not on the right-hand side of the conflict graph – they’re the precise opposite of de-escalating. They hurt. Not help. It’s futile to pretend otherwise.

        If you could provide evidence of where I attack a *person* rather than their *words and actions*, do please fill me in. I notice GW hasn’t managed to do this either. Despite repeatedly slurring me, here and elsewhere.

        1. It’s interesting that your immediate response to being told that someone has gone *in fear of you* is “show me the evidence!”, instead even just a heartbeat of reflection. People *are* afraid of you and your friends, Jo. You have become what women are scared of. When misogo bastards attack us on Twitter these days, it’s a *relief*.

          Do you understand what I’m saying to you right now Jo? You and your friends have become more feared than men.

          We don’t have to go trawling through your tweets to “prove with evidence” that you scare the shit out of people. You don’t get to demand proof of others’ *feelings*. That’s what abusers do.

        2. Provide ‘evidence’? Why on earth would I do that? You *hate* evidence! You never want or need it! None of you do!
          You are happy to refer to behaviour as racist, bigoted, problematic, toxic with absolutely no recourse to something as concrete as ‘evidence’. And if you wish to assert that it doesn’t hurt criticising someone’s behaviour and that is seperate to the person, it very much does if you are writing off someone’s impulses, reactions, attitudes to life and other women as racist or bigoted. Because, basically, that makes that person a….racist or a bigot.
          Think carefully. Do you have any form here at all?

        3. Incredibly interesting that the other poster just posted almost exactly what I did but we didn’t confer. Now – when that happens on Twitter, the poor accused is ask to consider her position…she *must* have done something. She needs to REFLECT.

        4. Actually, there is evidence on this very thread. The first paragraph of your first comment – in other words, the point that you felt it was your top priority to make – was:

          Did a search for “smugsexual”, couldn’t find it in this piece. Not mentioning that that vile term is what caused many to turn away from you in pain and betrayal is rather dishonest, no?

          There’s nothing in that paragraph about this post or its argument. It’s all about something else that the same person said or did on a different occasion. It makes it quite clear that your objection isn’t to the words here – it’s to the person, because of some argument that you had with her at an earlier date.

        5. “So no more inferences based on next to zero evidence.” Yup. It’s not pleasant when people make categorical judgments about your very essence based on a passing acquaintance with a few tweets and a peek at a blurry picture on your bio is it? But that’s the entire MO of the type of ‘feminist-activism’ that GW is criticizing here, and that you are defending. Don’t fool yourself. When you throw around words like bigot like confetti. You are not criticizing behaviour, you are pillorying people – people whose lives you know nothing about. But please don’t let that stop you treating them as mere ciphers of the cis-white-supremicist-hegemony.

    3. Did a search for “smugsexual”, couldn’t find it in this piece. Not mentioning that that vile term is what caused many to turn away from you in pain and betrayal is rather dishonest, no?

      Have a look at that paragraph and have a think about what you’re doing here.

      1. Dragging up an old argument
      2. Calling someone else “dishonest” for not dragging up an old argument
      3. Referring to a word as “vile” when it’s clearly not a racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic epithet.
      4. Referring to “pain and betrayal” in the context of a twitter argument.

      Even if you had a legitimate point (which I certainly don’t agree that you do), can you not see that this is an amazingly unpleasant and obviously counterproductive way to express yourself?

      I mean, do you behave like this in your normal life? If someone leaves the door open, do you say “shut the door please”, or “your vile betrayal of leaving the door open has caused many of us to despise you and wasn’t it dishonest of you to use the last of the milk”. This is simply being nasty for the sake of it. There’s no political context whatsoever that could make this an OK way to behave.

  5. “Right now I’m done with the female social code that commands me to express shame at myself, assume good faith in cruel people and deny my own qualities just so that my presence isn’t too disruptive.” –Yes yes yes! Incisive piece that calls for me to think again on the dangers of “credentialing”, thank you for it.

  6. Fantastic post. Your ability to cut through the nonsense and see what is really going on is razor sharp, as ever. Perhaps stupidly, I hadn’t really understood before that this is misogyny in action. I guess I made the classic mistake of thinking that women – and especially women who call themselves feminists – wouldn’t be susceptible to that. But if misogyny is hatred of women qua women, then there’s nothing else this can be. After all, far more time is spent trying to attack and destroy women than is reserved for men, which is a pretty clear indication of the underlying motives.

    The most disturbing part is how thoroughly and effectively some people have managed to convince themselves that the prominent women they don’t like are not really persons. You’re no longer seen as human, with all the attendant fallibility and weakness and frailness and vulnerability that entails. Recognition of these human traits is reserved for them and their friends. You are villifed and demonized as beyond redemption, and therefore beyond compassion. They have anxiety and pain and trauma – you have white woman’s feelz and cis white tears. They know your soul is dark and your intentions are evil, and so they don’t need to waste their time making sure they’ve interpreted you correctly – you might not have said what they claim you said, but they know you’re thinking it, deep down.

    When I first observed this happening, I used to try think we could reason with the people who do this. The more I see it, the more certain I am that that’s futile – you cannot prove your humanity to people who have already decreed you lacking in it. All we can do is try to protect ourselves from it, and hope that by carrying on being kind, decent, reasonable people, other reasonable people will recognise them for what they are – abusers and harassers of women.

      1. It’s interesting that you’ve decided this post – about people who abuse and harass women – must be about you. I mean, I assume you’ve decided that, otherwise you wouldn’t be in the comments railing against it. Why did you decide that? Are you admitting that you do in fact abuse and harass women, and are now trying to come up with some possible excuse for such appalling behaviour?

        This post is full of righteous anger – which despite all her white, cis, middle class privilege, GW is absolutely entitled to. If you are familiar with the rest of her work, you will already know how kind, decent and reasonable she is. But she’s entitled to angrily defend herself from time to time, just as much as you are. And on her own blog, in her own space, she can be as angry as she likes.

        1. Well I do have some cause to think it’s about me at least in part, given that GW has said as much, and has previous form in smearing me with no evidence.

      2. Also – why not engage with the content of the post? Point out the flaw with substantive arguments, if you disagree with them. All you’ve done in this comment thread is derail by talking about the term smugsexual (which was a derailing strategy last time everyone got so het up about it), and come up with ad hominem reasons why you don’t need to engage with the post. If you’ve got real objections, let’s hear them.

        1. Good idea. I didn’t respond in long form when GW called me out in her Twitlonger, because I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire. But this post? I think it *does* need a response.

        2. I’d start with the penultimate paragraph – take a few ideas from there, add a few more made up things, DEFINITELY include the faux outrage over smugsexual and you’re sorted! Oh, and stuff from the earlier paragraphs about women like me not “getting it”. Jesus, I’m practically doing it for you.

  7. Jonana: If it’s genuinely true that you admired and respected GW’s work right up until she coined the word “smugsexual” – did it ever occur to you that maybe you misunderstood it? You seemed awfully quick to vilify and demonise someone you had previously admired and respected.

  8. Glosswitch: you’re quite right to say that it’s unacceptable to say that rape threats are the only way the marginalised can communicate with White Feminism. Whoever tweeted that put themselves in the wrong. However (and feel free to give me a ‘Fuck off, tosser’ if this pisses you off – I will take it on the chin!) that doesn’t make it okay, IMO, for you to respond with ‘I’m waiting for the misogofeminists to justify rape as only way marginalised can communicate…’ I mean, obviously in one sense it’s okay – you can say exactly what you want, of course – but what I mean is that to say what you said is unfair. I have read many, many tweets from the people you call misogofeminists, and, while they are often needlessly uncharitable, I do not believe that any single one of them would *ever* justify rape on any grounds whatsoever. Now, I totally get that you were using rhetoric to say, ‘This is the logical illogical extension of the kind of arguments they are making’, and your joke was even funny, but you’re attributing to these people far worse opinion-crimes than they have committed or are ever likely to – therefore, you risk looking as if you’re being cruel and wilfully assuming the worst about them, when that’s exactly what you’re accusing them of doing to you. Your joke was effectively saying, ‘You’re the kind of scumbags who would justify rape, as long as the rapist was less privileged than the rape victim.’ That’s a pretty cruel accusation. As someone who hates cruelty and unfairness to other women when it is directed at you and your allies in this battle, surely it makes no sense to use the same illegitimate tactics against your opponents?

    One thing I’m uncomfortable with on both sides of this war is the way in which the opposing factions seem content (and even eager) to dehumanise one another metaphorically. Calling people pigeons who endlessly crap all over chessboards is not okay, is it? I mean, by all means object if people are mistreating you, but to suggest they’re subhuman AND incontinent cannot be helpful or justified, can it? Again, it is mimicking the behaviour of those whose tactics you object to. A WOC feminist recently (on Twitter) described certain WhiteFems as ‘attack dogs’ – again, dehumanising. The same person described a prominent white right wing feminist as a ‘demon’ and this accusation was accompanied by a picture of an actual demon.

    I totally understand the desire to lash out cruelly when you’ve been unfairly attacked, but in a situation like this, where *everyone* feels unfairly attacked, it seems to lead only to more and more nastiness. Surely one of the best things anyone who truly cares about women/feminism can do is refrain from attacking ANY woman in an unfair way, even one who has behaved badly towards you? It’s just as easy to say, ‘I disagree and I think you’re being unreasonable’ as it is to sneer and call someone a crapping pigeon!

    1. No. I didn’t attack anyone unfairly. I made a comment in a conversation, with no mention or @ of anyone else. It went unnoticed until it was mined by the feminism police.
      You have decided you know what and whom I was talking about better than I do. You don’t. You don’t get to police my language, limit my right to express righteous anger (and that’s anger, not spite – I am not some little girl having a tantrum, I’m an intelligent, principled woman and believe me, I don’t use ANY strong words lightly).
      Do not patronise or belittle my fury at this abuse. Do not mitigate it. Yes, we women are used to people doing that, but I’m not taking it when I know I am right to say this and that it needed to be said.

    2. “You’re attributing to these people far worse opinion-crimes than they have committed or are ever likely to.” I think what GW is attributing to these people is the belief that women are not really oppressed as women, and given that Sam Ambreen opened her blog today by stating that “White feminists sit around daydreaming about their next campaign” because “They’re not fighting for basic recognition like the rest of us,” I think that assessment is utterly sound.

    3. Sarah: I’m pretty sure nobody has called anybody a pigeon. I think that was a metaphor. Or more accurately, a simile. “Arguing with trolls is like playing chess with a pigeon”. This is not saying that anyone is literally incontinent and shits all over chessboards.

      However, calling people attack dogs and demons is pretty obnoxious, you’re right there. So you’re right to point that some people are dehumanising others, but mistaken to suggest that everybody’s at it.

  9. was not misrepresented and name-called because of anything I wrote. I was misrepresented and name-called for two reasons: 1. I’m a woman, and 2. I have a New Statesman blog and am therefore considered  excessively “privileged”.

    How do you know? This whole thing seems to just be psychologizing your opponents. You don’t have to assume good faith but you should at least have a reason for claiming bad faith. You do say that it’s careerism, which is possible, but what’s the basis for that?

  10. I was not misrepresented and name-called because of anything I wrote. I was misrepresented and name-called for two reasons: 1. I’m a woman, and 2. I have a New Statesman blog and am therefore considered  excessively “privileged”.

    How do you know? A lot of this seems to just be psychologizing your opponents. You don’t have to assume good faith but you should at least have a reason for claiming bad faith. You do say that it’s careerism, which is possible, but what’s the basis for that?

    1. There is projection, sure. But I’d say the evidence, for me, is two years of giving these self-styled activists the benefit of the doubt, and even veering towards becoming one of them myself. It’s the complete and utter silence when people who have been written off as “baddies” raise the issues that these people claim to care about; the way in which men can engage with them and say things that women would never be allowed to; the absolute disinterest in feminist issues affecting marginalised groups unless it’s in the context of alleging someone else is disinterested; the shameless cookie hunting; the absolute absence of any generosity or humanity at the heart of their feminism. I don’t know how else to explain what underlies it. If I am wrong about their careerism (I’d be surprised if I am) I am not wrong about the selfishness and destructiveness of what they do.

  11. “Laurie Penny (how dare you write about your own hair!)”

    lol what? they discussed her article among themselves, she tagged herself in. and they just criticized it for using universal language to discuss something that applies to a narrow segment of the population, which it straightforwardly did. most of that convo wasn’t even about her.

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