FEMINISM | RECLAIM THE NIGHT AND THE THOUGHTS THAT ENSUED
On Saturday night I teamed up with my friends Cara and Quinn and marched the streets of London in the name of ending violence against women. I marched alongside incredible women, sporting homemade placards and banners announcing 'trans sisters are our sisters' and 'sex work is work' slogans, and I felt at one with people who understood things. I felt surrounded by a bond, a buzzing unity that we all shared. I felt comfortable chanting my heart out and I loved not having the ability to swallow for two days because of it. Afterwards, at the Rally, everything I thought had been questioned.
This post isn't an act of academia, I know virtually nothing about the whole thing so these are thoughts from my tiny corner of the internet - I'm no expert but I strongly believe in bringing feminism into the day-to-day lives of the general public. If people follow my blog because they like my posts that are, however fleetingly, flecked with feminism inbetween the bullshit about my life and stuff then I want them to be informed, as best as I can possibly do.
Following Reclaim The Night, there have been a number of discussions after it was discovered that anti-trans and anti-sex work feminists were handing out leaflets and generally spreading shit all over the place. I didn't see any of it, but it was certainly noted at the time. While the TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) were immediately shunned by the organisers, the SWERFs (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists) were not.
I think the issue is that many feminists and many people in general cannot successfully make the distinction between sex work and sex work
. While we all fully admit that sex work isn't the safest occupation for women, denying their work altogether and creating dangerous situations and circumstances is hardly the answer. When I was at RTN, the poet
spoke on the behalf of many of us, somewhat bravely, facing an audience of incredibly strong conviction and opinion - an intimidating task, that Bridget was sure she would 'lose half the audience' to. After delivering her poetry to a room full of women pumped on the notion of destroying the patriarchy, Bridget offered a productive suggestion to those who insist on protesting at Spearmint Rhino - words to the effect of 'If your goal is to shut down a place of work for women, then you are destroying what might be their only source of income. Perhaps you should think about donating financially to the women you're forcing out of work by participating in your activism.' Words that I, and many others, stood and cheered to. Unfortunately, Bridget's prediction of half the room being pissy with her words was accurate but the sound of their silence was drowned by that of our cheering.
I can sort of ~vaguely~ understand the reasons behind SWERFs' radical opinions and those of Object - they leave most of us with incredibly mixed opinions. The action versus the motivation - but I don't applaud their actions. Their feminism seems to me, to be somewhat exclusionary, backwards and harmful. Instead of pissing all over the women that work in the sex industry, we should be providing safety and campaigning for the illegal parts of sex work to be decriminalised. We should be ensuing that women can work together to stay safe. It makes absolutely
sense for women to be forced to live and work in dangerous conditions, in fear of men. This should not be a default for any woman in any job at any time of day or in any place or wearing anything - a woman should not live in fear of a man.
Last week, Julie Bindel (bloody hell, I don't know why I'm even giving her the time of day on my blog), wrote an
suggesting that 'feminism is becoming toxic' which essentially criticised the movement, though she identifies (
) as part of it, for reaching a mainstream audience. It criticised women for getting angry over Dapper Laughs being given his own show on ITV, for giving a shit about ensuring that rapey 'pick up artist' Julien Blanc is denied a UK Visa. She suggested that we're all spending too much time trying to change insignificant things like getting hideous songs like 'Blurred Lines' banned, when we should be focusing on the bigger picture - how to make a more lasting and substantial social change.
What she fails to see in this, is that by doing all of these things we are actively contributing towards the bigger picture. These are the things that have a wide surface area touching mainstream society, which is, afterall, the prime target in need of social change. Get 100 students angry about playing Blurred Lines and the next time they hear a song of similar creepiness and danger to women, they'll have a problem with that, too. That's 100 supporters more educated than before. These things are building a culture of intolerance to misogyny, since misogyny risks becoming increasingly normalised by pop culture. Even I noticed a change in my Facebook timeline during the time that Dapper Laughs was big and on TV - I don't have that many annoying, gross boys on my friends list (for obvious reasons) but some that appeared seemed to have a sudden burst and bloom of cunty confidence and started acting even grosser than usual. Needless to say, I hastily unfriended them.
Her article came at the perfect time, really, because Reclaim The Night proved it wrong. Feminism does not risk becoming toxic. It is on its way to becoming an even bigger movement than ever before. It has the power of reaching huge audiences - with openly identifying feminists having fans in their millions. Reclaim The Night, in all its positivity, brings feminism to the doorsteps of hundreds of women and girls. I was honestly impressed by how many young women were there - younger than me. I met a couple of girls who were in sixth form and I thought the fact that they gave enough of a shit about it to come along and march was the coolest thing ever.
Even Beauty Bloggers like
contribute in their ways. If you've ever seen a make-up tutorial of hers, you'll know that she's actually, in her sugar-coated way, negating some of the principles that have been spoon-fed to teenage girls for years. If she has a spot, she'll cover it up, but she won't act like it's a bad thing to have them, or to feel guilty about hiding them if they want to. She tells her audience of tweenagers & up that it's perfectly normal and that we all get them. I only wish I'd had someone like that, that all the girls in High School looked up to. Maybe then, I would have been given less shit for not conforming to society's standards of 'pretty'. All I had was the Spice Girls, and by the point that I really needed them, they'd totally fizzled out, I'd yet to discover Riot Grrrl and all I was left with was Usher. Hm.
If celebrities like Beyonce and Zoella can implement feminist practice even slightly and make it seem totally normal, I don't see the problem. I'm happy for the word to be used in its diluted form if it means that more people are exposed to it. It's like dipping your toe in before jumping in the deep end. I know that my identification as the feminist I am now didn't happen overnight - I'd been exposed to feminist theory throughout my studies and throughout my late-teens - adult life. I can't kick myself enough for being obsessed with Le Tigre's Decaptacon aged 15 and not looking into the band properly. I wish I'd become who I am now, sooner. If we can help any kids learn how awesome it is to work towards a world where everybody is equal while we actually do the work that makes it happen, I'm happy.
No poison, no toxicity, no rancid exclusionary practice masquerading as greater-good.