Thursday, December 07, 2006

False Accusations, Misconceptions and Setting the Record Straight with ICTs

I had been accused of exploiting the suffering of women who have experienced violence for my own sex-biased agenda. To the blogger's credit, he did later partially retract his accusation, and everybody's friends again! But it did make me wonder how many people felt as he did.

First of all, just to clear things up, I am not sex-biased! It's amazing the prejudice directed at people (I'm not going to write women, because men can be - and often are - feminists too) who dare to declare that they are feminists: I have no desire to regurgitate the abusive and hate-filled rot that some attempt to present as legitimate cases against feminism (see Monday's post), but having now read a number of blogs expressing gender concerns and feminist ideas, I've seen all number of ignorant and wildly inaccurate statements of response (always presented as 'fact' of course!). But the most pervasive and consistent, even after all these years, even though it's based on impressions made in the 70s (which weren't necessarily accurate in the first place, since the media played a huge part in determining feminism - and still does to some extent), is the belief that 'feminists' (as if we are all the same - as if the fact that there are feminists from every culture in every part of the world bears no consequences to the 'singular' feminist agenda - whatever that is...) are man-haters.

It's often these same 'sources of knowledge' who like to accuse feminism of being stuck in the 70s. But they're taking as their points of reference their own definitions of what feminism is: it's their opinions and definitions that are stuck in the 70s. Not the inclusive, plural, multiple, culturally-communicating, active, theoretical, pragmatic, diverse and infinitely diversifying next-generation of feminism that is buzzing and bubbling in blogs and forums, in councils and classrooms, all over the world as I write this... And in those blogs and forums, councils and classrooms, are men as well as women. There might not be as many men as there are women, but they are there, and their numbers are growing... And believe me, they are very welcome!

I like very much the page called 'these are the rules - beware trolls!' on Laurelin's gender-aware blog - - and I might just make my own 'disclaimer', because even though I haven't been keeping a blog all that long I am already sick of the stereotyping. Most of these people (although there are some sad, sad exceptions) would never dream of making prejudice statements about black people, or religious people, or poor people, so who on earth gave anyone the right to make ignorant, offensive and prejudiced remarks about 'feminists'?? I will concede that when discussions refer to 'men' as if they too are all the same, and all behave in the same way, this is what can instigate defensive back-biting comments, so from now on I will be as careful as possible to clarify exactly who I'm talking about. This is in fact why mostly I prefer to refer to Man, as opposed to men, as a term - or trope - figuring for the idealised, 'universally-instated', idea of male or masculine attainment - and all who participate in trying to uphold and preserve this idea (which can and does include some women).

Ok, so now I've got that off my chest, I can proceed with the task in hand; which was to avantly deny the charges of exploiting abused women for my own agenda. Aside from the assumption that has been made in this accusation that I am not one of these women (!) if we only ever stood up to be counted when the cause affected us personally nothing would ever be done about anything, and the thing about violence is that, even if we haven't experienced any to speak of before now, we never know when we might be affected by it. It's not something that some people live with and some don't. There is the potential for it to occur at any time to anyone. And in this age where, at least in the west, the birth rate is plummeting, we forget sometimes that some of us eventually will have kids, and when or if we do, it will be for their safety that we'll be concerned. But if here and now we concern ourselves only with matters which affect us personally, we have not done the best job we could to protect our kids from violence. Sorry for the preaching, but the suggestion that I had no right to take a stand against violence directed at women really riled me! I truly hope - I believe - that I am speaking with women, not for them!

It's for this reason that I'm posting here a public and widely-distributed e-mail about this year's 'take back the night' march in London that has been circulating throughout the whole campaign to end violence against women, and not only as part of takebackthetech. I feel like it expresses my sentiments exactly and shows that there are many out there who do feel the same. I also felt that, even though it is concerned with the wider campaign, it is also extremely relevant to (the campaign's name-sake) takebackthetech's more specialised angle on the same campaign because it is an e-mail: it is a demonstration of a strong and effective method for women to utilise ICTs to spread the message about, and attempt to combat, violence against women:

On Saturday 25th November 2006, approximately 1000 women ascended on
Trafalgar Square to collectively join together for the once yearly Reclaim
the Night march. The march went from Trafalgar square, through to the
University of London Union (ULU) on Malet Street (by Goodge Street tube

Before I left for the march I took time to have a good think about why I
was actually going along. Not much about or around me has changed since
last years march, but inside I know something has shifted. I wasn't an
onlooker this time – this time I felt a genuine personal connection to the
event. I was angry. In the past year I have had a few women share with me
that they had been raped in the past but the men who committed the crimes
are out there just walking free, I have had friends share with me how
their partners physically harmed them on a regular basis, friends who have
been sexually assaulted whilst they were enjoying a drink, and I have also
spent time with women who are emotionally scarred by violent events that
occurred in their families when they were children. In all of these
instances I have had to sit and listen to each of them reel out words of
self blame, of reasons why they didn't report it, to excusals for the
behavior of their fathers, uncles, brothers, friends or lovers and in the
cases of rape that they had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, or
were a bit drunk, or perhaps were flirting with the perpetrator. I have
also listened to women say that they perhaps deserved it – that they
should have been a better person, they shouldn't have gone to that club,
they were perhaps unlovable, or thought they were naïve at the time.

By reflecting on this one year of my life, I recognised that my feelings
had taken a definite shift. I used to be unaffected by this stuff – not in
a heartless way – I'd be sympathetic but I would think the same thing,
perhaps she shouldn't have been wearing that in that place, she was a bit
too flirty so perhaps the bloke just got mixed messages…etc. Its only in
the last couple of years that I have not done this – since I was
challenged to think about why I believed what I did, to think about what I
valued, and to look up and around at the collective experience of women
and not only my individual experience. By doing this I've come to realise
that by looking at my own experience in isolation from other women's
experiences I allowed myself to make excuses for men, to devalue myself,
to go as far as blaming myself and to minimise thereality of there being a
widespread occurrence of male perpetrated violence on women. It is fact
that I have been physically harmed by more than one man in my life time; I
have also been sexually harassed in the street, in school and in a few
pubs. I'd be lying if I said I didn't live each day with an underlying
fear of it happening again. That's my individual experience. In our
collective experience it is fact that one in every four women in the UK
today have also experienced some form of sexual or physical violence
perpetrated by men. So based on this reasoning I worked out why I wanted
to march. I wanted to stand up to declare that us women are not
fundamentally flawed and NOT ONE of us deserves to be treated in this way.
I also wanted to tell all men that you must exercise your power of choice
and stop committing acts of violence on women, and you must also do
everything in your power to stop other men from doing the same. And to
finally tell the government, and the other institutions that have power
over our day-to-day lives, that they need to do more to protect women and
children in our homes, on our streets and work damn hard at ensuring that
100% of rapists are convicted for their crime instead of the current and
outrageously low rate of 5.3%.

The experience of being a part of and seeing so many other women gathered
for this march was absolutely amazing– to both be able to express my anger
with support and to support other women in expressing their own felt
liberating. Shouting at the top of my lungs was a welcomed outlet for the
usually quiet rage I have inside - the anger that I clearly feel towards
those that have harmed me, that have harmed my friends, and at those who
have the power to do something about it but are just turning a blind eye.
Every one of the near 1000 women who attended the march on 25th November
2006 are her-story makers as according to the organisers, it was the
biggest march against male perpetrated violence on women that Britain has
ever seen. That was 1000 of us marching for every woman in the UK who is
afraid to walk out alone at night, for all 2,370 women who were raped or
sexually assaulted in London between October 2005 & 2006 (Metropolitan
Police Estimate), for the 1 in every 4 women who will experience male
perpetrated sexual violence in their lifetime, and for each and every one
of the sixty women an hour who call the police because they feel afraid of
being harmed by a male in their own home.

Collectively, as women, we're saying one woman being harmed by any man is
too much. This is a fight for justice and we will stand up and reclaim our
basic rights – our right for safety on our streets, for safety in our
homes and for the freedom from the everyday fear that keeps us trapped in
a prison of inequality. We do not want our children to grow up believing,
or our young people to continue believing (as currently 40% of them do),
that violence towards women is an expected and acceptable part of our
society. Any man who commits an act of violence on any woman has made that
choice to do so...he has decided to do it because he desires to exercise
power and control over women…his male comrades allow him to do it because
they also desire the same power and control...and today, at this very
minute, there is a man somewhere choosing to cause harm. So therefore
until this stops and until every woman is safe. We'll march again. Women
will unite. And on the same date next year we'll 'Reclaim the Night'...
By Gemma Novis

technorati tags: takebackthetech

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