A Pox on the Patriarchy
Julie’s blog is down, so she’s asked me to host her statement here — I think it’s brilliant and am honoured to publish it.
I am very sorry that I feel I have no choice but to withdraw my contribution to the Feminism in London conference this year. It is particularly difficult for me to do so because FiL is one of the few feminist conferences that dare include me on their programme (in case of disruption from anti-feminists claiming I am transphobic, biphobic, Islamophobic and whorephobic). In fact, FiL had, in previous years, left me off the programme (but had me speak) in case the smooth-running of the conference suffered as a result.This year I told the organisers that I would only agree to speak at the event if my name were included in the programme, to which they agreed. It therefore feels particularly upsetting to find that the organisers are once again being bullied about one of their speakers, Jane Fae, this time on the grounds that she has expressed and still holds some pro-pornography views.
I am very clear in my stance about the sex trade. I am an active and passionate member of the feminist abolitionist movement, and would never invite someone with Jane Fae’s views to speak on the topic at any event I were to organise, and would not debate whether or not the sex trade harms women and girls. But Jane was not invited to speak on any aspect of this topic.
I have shared panels with other feminist abolitionists that have differing views to me on a range of feminist issues, and regularly attend events at which there may be delegates or speakers who would take opposing views on important issues such as reproductive rights and sexual identity. But I would hope we all share core values, and can work together on single issues, such as ending men’s violence towards women.
If we were to scrutinise each others’ political standpoints on everything prior to deciding whether a speaking invite should be proffered, I would imagine our movement would be somewhat smaller than it already is.
I cannot possibly reconcile my position on the no-platforming of feminists for holding contrary views on topics they are not even planning on speaking about, and stand aside whilst Jane Fae is handed out similar treatment. That said, radical feminists such as myself are far more likely to be treated in this way than liberal feminists such as Jane, because their views are far more mainstream and tend to be treated with less hostility by mens rights activists and other sexists. There are very few opportunities for feminist abolitionists to speak about the sex trade from an anti-prostitution position, and many more for Jane and her colleagues on the other side of the debate. I have never seen a liberal feminist no-platformed, following an invitation to speak, from a feminist/Leftist conference, and yet it happens to me and other radical feminists on a regular basis.
That said, it is not OK, in my view, to justify such treatment of those with whom we disagree. The accusation made by those who have pressurised the organisers to accept Jane’s withdrawal – that Jane’s very presence will ‘trigger’ feelings of trauma in some delegates, or that her simply being at the event, will make the space ‘unsafe’ – is ridiculous. There is no such thing as a safe space for women fighting to end men’s violence, as the world is populated by men who carry out such acts and others that condone such acts. I stand firmly in support of those women who wish to organise and attend women only events at which there is a consensus on issues around the sex trade and other key feminist issues, and I would certainly never take part in one where apologists for the sex trade would be invited to air their views. But I cannot take part in an event in which a speaker has had to withdraw because of views unrelated to the topic on which she was invited to speak.
The organisers of FiL work tirelessly to put on an event for feminists to get together and organise to end women’s oppression. I thank them for doing this, and hope that in the future we can be less sectarian whist still holding on to our common goals and principles.