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Guest Blog: we can't end violence against women by kicking men out of feminism

(95 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 05-Dec-12 11:38:37

This week's guest blog is from Holly Baxter, who is co-editor of The Vagenda. Initially set up to call out women's magazines for limiting women's horizons, The Vagenda has helped to popularise feminism for a new generation of young women, and this week the team signed a book-deal.

In this guest blog, which is part of the #16days of activism to eliminate violence against women, Holly argues that the battle can't be won if we won't allow men to fight beside us. Her post is partly in response to recent events at the London Feminist Film Festival, where activist and panellist Julia Long asked all the men to leave a post-screening talk.

Read the blog, and do tell us what you think.

FYI, StewieGriffinsMom has set up a bloghop for #16days posts, so if you post about the 16 days of activism to eliminate violence against women, do add your URL on her blog, and tweet us @mumsnetbloggers too - we'll RT you if you do.

PlainBellySneetch Wed 05-Dec-12 12:25:01

I completely agree. I understand why women-only 'spaces' are necessary in support situations - ie when women are present who have been abused or otherwise victimised, and the presence of men might prevent them from coming forward to actually use that support.

But in politics and in activism we look like hypocrites, fools - or worst of all - bullies, when we exclude men.

I'd be really angry if I went to an event which billed itself as a feminist - not separatist - one, which allowed a separatist to hijack the agenda like this. I'd be there to try and build a better future for my sons as wells as my daughters - and Julia Long does NOT speak for me.

poppyseeds99 Wed 05-Dec-12 12:29:05

Haha, Julia Long may be waiting for the day when men no longer roam the earth and we use selection methods and sperm-in-test-tubes to procreate, in a women-only world. But that's not the world we live in now... doesn't make sense to chuck any gender out of any meeting, surely? hmm

chocomolic Wed 05-Dec-12 17:28:57

What would the reaction have been if a male at a film festival asked all women to leave?! I know what my reaction would be to him anyway and it wouldn't be pleasant!

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 18:27:57

I have heard (from SGM's blog) that Long may have been misrepresented, and I don't feel terribly comfortable commenting when the only media reports I can find are not by her, and seem very negative towards her.

Just thought that was worth flagging up.

I am really angry that this is being presented as some kind of 'mean' move by nasty feminists excluding men.

My DH, who I'm mentioning because he happens to be a bloke I know well, would not think twice if he were politely asked to leave a feminist event, especially one discussing separatism. That's because he doesn't assume he's entitled to be involved in every single discussion ever - and he understands that women-only spaces matter.

I'm kinda pissed off I'm rolling out my DH's words here, as if I can't use my own, but hey, it sounds as if that's what's important, right? Julia Long (or anyone else who asks men to leave should not even be allowed to ask, because her right to express herself as a woman is less important than worrying that men might be offended by her request. Not that they might refuse (it seems they didn't): but that they might be offended to be asked.


This is not the same as men excluding women, so it is not on to say 'oh, but if men did it it'd be uproar'. Yes: because there is a context to all of this. Women are frequently excluded, especially lesbians, who were the subject of that film. Even in our nice 'equal' UK society we are excluded economically and politically and educationally. In an average gathering, men will dominate the conversation.

So is it really so much to ask that occasionally, there's some space for women on their own?!

That's before I even get into the crap of that blogpost, which reads awfully like saying: 'shit, ladies, best include the menfolks or they might kill us!'

I know that's not the message the author hopes to get across, but she is citing an appalling example of violence by a man targeting women. The vast majority of violence is enacted by men, against women. More women have been killed by domestic violence in the US, than troops have been killed in the Afghan war over the same time (6,614 against 11,766, if you're interested). The author of this blog seems to be claiming that we must ignore these statistics, we must never treat men as the perpetrators of gendered violence, and we must file away people like the man she describes in her article as isolated madmen.

Well, no.

There is a pattern here. Women should not have to be too 'nice' and gentle and sweet to see it. Women are entitled to say, no, we are not being treated as equal. Yes, maybe some of us do want women-only spaces. We shouldn't be vilified for asking for them.

We certainly shouldn't have words put into our mouths. Claiming 'Julia Long things men are the enemy' without the courtesy of a quotation is bullshit. Misrepresenting what happened - which I do believe has happened in the mainstream media reporting of this event - is bullshit.

TunipTheVegedude Wed 05-Dec-12 18:33:48

No time for a long post, but I agree with Julia about the vital importance of all-women spaces in activism.

TunipTheVegedude Wed 05-Dec-12 18:36:03

I also think it is really shoddy of MNHQ to do this without actually making sure that the facts are straight first.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 18:43:23

Having done a load of googling, TBF, I'm not sure how easy the facts are to come at. What I know is private stuff from chatting to people (which obviously I'm not going to repeat), and SGM's warning on her blog. Which is here:

What I am confused by is the mention of stewie in the title, as if she supports this guest blog post, when it's pretty obvious from her blog she has her own view.

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 05-Dec-12 18:45:01

Which facts aren't straight, Tunip? We want to encourage all voices to contribute, but if we've got facts wrong we'd definitely want to put it right asap.

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 05-Dec-12 18:49:48

LRD, that's a good point about how we include stewie in the OP - we've just edited to reflect that.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 18:54:17

Thanks Kate. Sorry, I was about to report but you are already on it.

I don't want to speak for tunip but since she mentions she doesn't have much time (and may have disappeared off already) - she might be referring to the warning on SGM's post, which I've linked to.

TeeElfOnTeeShelf Wed 05-Dec-12 18:57:39

I do feel I can't comment until I hear the facts, which don't seem to be here.

Have HQ tried contacting Julia to see what she has to say?

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 05-Dec-12 19:27:03

Baxter says that Long sees men as the enemy. I'm not sure that asking some people to leave a panel discussion is a sufficient pointer to you thinking they are the enemy.

Also the panel discussion wasn't about gendered violence, it was about a film about lesbian separatism. Why is it being brought up in Baxter's blog? I think it wasn't right to ask men to leave that particular event because it hadn't been billed as a women only event, but it just doesn't seem relevant. She might as well have said "and here's something Greer said about equal pay or Fine said about gender development that I disagree with" in there.

AbigailAdams Wed 05-Dec-12 19:27:50

I agree with Julia as well. The film was about female separatism. Why should men be involved in that discussion? Surely that would negate the point of the film?

I also agree with LRD. In trying to eradicate the problem of violence against women you have to name the problem. And the problem is male violence.

CatitaInAHatita Wed 05-Dec-12 19:35:19

What LRD said, with bells on.

JuliaScurr Wed 05-Dec-12 19:43:24

the blue eyes/brown eyes exercise gives blue eyed people an experience of how it feels to be unprepared for arbitrary discrimination and exclusion based on physical characteristics. Whether or not Julia Long intended something similar, it certainly had an impact words alone would not have had.
The men lost an opportunity to discuss a film. Women routinely lose a lot more than that.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 19:46:16

doctrine - I don't see how asking someone to leave (and I'm still worried this isn't what happened - I know it's what's been reported) is making the 'the enemy'.

Until we know why Long did it, I don't think it's fair to second-guess her motivations.

The reason I mentioned gendered violence is the blog post.

The film, being about lesbian separatism, sounds to me like a good context for asking men to leave a discussion. If nothing else, it'd be a good social experiment to see how it worked. Sadly it seems the men took it in good part but many others didn't.

If it had been set up as a women-only event (which is extremely difficult to do atm, after Conway Hall), there would have been no scope to make the political point you make by asking men to leave. I don't see what's wrong with that.

emskaboo Wed 05-Dec-12 19:47:11

Another vote for LRD. I hate this idea that women only spaces are oppressing men or that we should be forced to include them.

As a white able bodied woman I am pretty sure I would, quite rightly, get very short shrift if I attempted to attend the BME or disabled workers forums at my workplace without an explicit invitation, and if I had been invited I would in no way be offended if I was asked at a certain point to leave as someone felt uncomfortable about me being there, what is the difference?

WidowWadman Wed 05-Dec-12 19:54:10

So why should men not learn about lesbian separatism? And if men weren't welcome, why hasn't it been advertised as women only event?

Frankly this sounds exactly like the sort of thing why so many women declare that they're not feminists.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 19:54:41

Sorry, re-read my post to you doctrine and realized how antagonistic it sounds! blush

I'm fired up, but not at you.

Hope that is clear.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 19:56:07

WW - I suspect (practically) it wasn't a woman-only event because they've become effectively impossible to organize, because they get derailed and the organizers get targeted.

But also, if it had been a woman-only event, then a different sort of political point is made - as juliascurr's link illustrates.

Frankly, this sounds like the sort of thing (to me) that demonstrates which women weren't feminists in the first place.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 05-Dec-12 20:03:59

LRD, my post was in response to Baxter's blog. As a post itself, regardless of topic, it doesn't seem very good.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 20:07:44

YY, I know ... I was going off on a rant after your post, rather than ranting at you. I'm not the most coherent when I'm angry.

Maybe that is one thing that makes me feel some sympathy for someone asking to make a discussion women-only. I can imagine that if you were in a room, you might be looking round, working out whether you'd feel able to speak confidently.

If I think of this from the point of view of women in the audience, some of those women presumably were there because they wanted to see this screening, and if it was mixed, that's what they had to go to. I would think you might be glad of someone suggesting maybe the men should leave, if you'd felt uncomfortable in a mixed viewing.

But I am speculating on what one might do in a context like this, because I still don't reckon we know what did happen, quite.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 05-Dec-12 20:12:03

Fair enough smile

TeeElfOnTeeShelf Wed 05-Dec-12 20:13:30

Okay so I've read a bit further and most of what I am reading doesn't seem to be anger that she said (supposedly, I also can't find definite proof of this) 'men leave' but that she made the decision apparently on her own without consulting anyone else on the panel.

Either way, why shouldn't she, or anyone, be able to make that point, that the discussion was for women only. It wasn't a discussion on men in feminism. It was about lesbian separatism. So why did men need to be there?

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