WEP to women: get in line

Women's Equality Party??

You almost have to feel sorry for the Women’s Equality Party. Somebody from WEP Bath typed “InterSectional” [sic] into Google and stumbled onto Everyday Feminism. She was lured in by the soft-focus “diversity” stock photos. She felt a rush of self-righteous inspiration that numbed her capacity for critical thought, and she took to social media.

Who among us hasn’t been there? Benefit of the doubt. But then WEP Bath’s Facebook account had to go and respond to the concerns and frustrations of their base.

Here’s some of WEP’s text from the (now-deleted) Facebook thread:

“Really I see a bunch of man  haters labeling trans people as frauds, I mean really?!? demonising a minority is awful!! all of you are so blind”
“… this page is not a breeding ground for Trans Exclusionary feminists to have a tea party”
“I am revolted to see so much hate on this page”
“The comments on this post are incredibly offensive and go against our values as an intersectional, inclusive party. So you are all aware I am going to delete this thread.”

Look: some feminists are concerned about granting males unchallenged access to women’s spaces. You can absolutely respect trans people without erasing the biological basis of womanhood, or vilifying your sisters who do. WEP chose to erase and to vilify.

TERF is a slur

Just to be clear: the use of aggressive slurs is a male tactic to silence “uppity” women who insist on defining their rights and boundaries. 

Of course, being an outspoken feminist has never been popular. Just ask Hillary Clinton. Or Germaine Greer. Or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Maybe a political party must make certain concessions in the interest of broadening its base.

But whether or not it was a strategic decision, there is no call to shout down and shame the measured concerns of your membership. WEP, of all organisations, should know better.

Making amends?

WEP Bath did issue an apology to its membership. Although, they stopped short of condemning the term ‘trans-exclusionary feminists.’

Reading further down in the comments, not only did this apparently rogue moderator delete the thread, she banned the members involved. Those members have since been restored.

Hopefully WEP’s future actions include not only social media training, but educating activist volunteers on opposing views. And, maybe someday, even a space to debate these issues in the light of day.

 

Ed. note: this post updated 14.4.17 to include WEP Bath’s response on their FB page. Thanks Helen Saxby for the heads up.

International Women’s Day 2017 Roundup

Statue of a defiant girl standing in front of the Wall St Bull

Happy #IWD2017! Here’s a roundup of some notable stories and inspiration from women around the world. How are you celebrating today?

An asset management firm installs a defiant girl statue in front of Wall Street bull, sending a powerful message to women and girls everywhere. State Street Global Advisors installed the statue as part of its campaign to pressure companies it invests in to add more women to their boards. (via Business Insider UK)

The Guardian’s @LexyTopping live blogs #IWD2017 all day long: https://t.co/GJchZTzv6o

An Ohio Bookstore Flips Male-Authored Books, Displaying Them Spine-Out On Shelves (via HeatSt.com)

The FT is launching a new ranking for champions of women’s careers. Nominations are open to both women and men, in the UK and internationally. The list will be published 27 September, the same day as FT’s Women at the Top Conference. To nominate a champion, go to www.out-standing.org/heroes/ by May 5.

And from Twitter:

Emma Watson’s feminism must be evolving

Emma 2017 vs. Bey 2013
Spot the difference? Emma 2017 vs. Beyonce 2013

You’ve heard the news by now: vaunted feminist Emma Watson posed scantily on the cover of Vanity Fair, somebody (probably a man) tried to gotcha her on her feminism, somebody else (probably another man) tried to get Gloria Steinem to talk shit about her–despite the fact that Ms. Steinem eloquently shut them down on Emma already last week–and twitter went insane.

… it does behoove us as feminists to question the nature of the choices that we make.

Emma Watson says in response: “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality.”

So that’s true: the female body should be celebrated, not shamed. I love showing skin from time to time, and I’m thankful for generations of feminists before me that have made it socially acceptable for me to wear what I like, and socially unacceptable for men to touch and catcall and harass me because of what I’m wearing (or choosing not to wear.)

But I do believe there’s valid rationale hidden somewhere in the criticism–however tactlessly deployed to stir up drama around one particular woman whose contributions to feminism are undeniable. Hell, Emma Watson herself deployed this tactic, calling out Beyonce for her sexualised image in 2014:

“As I was watching [the videos] I felt very conflicted, I felt her message felt very conflicted in the sense that on the one hand she is putting herself in a category of a feminist, but then the camera, it felt very male, such a male voyeuristic experience of her,” Watson said during a conversation with journalist and actress Tavi Gevinson, as published in a 2014 issue of Wonderland Magazine.

 

Here’s the thing: it does behoove us as feminists to question the nature of the choices that we make. Nobody’s choices are made in a vacuum. If you as a woman are consistently making choices that play into society’s patriarchal expectations of femininity, it’s worth considering potential value in challenging those expectations, both within yourself and in confrontation with others.

But there is a difference between critiquing an individual’s choices and critiquing the dynamics of the patriarchal system. Women didn’t fight for feminism so that we could start modesty-policing each other.

Emma Watson is a feminist warrior AND a babe. There are better ways to engage in criticism of patriarchal constructs than a call-out culture that tries to gotcha women for failing to act in line with anybody’s expectations–regardless of who is setting those expectations.

And as Emma’s own feminist perspective evolves over time, I’ll be looking forward to her apology to Bey.