The political Left and panty-checks

screenshot-sevensistersfestival.com 2015-12-17 23-51-17.png

 

Until we support girls and women in setting boundaries for their own safety and comfort, we cannot accurately describe ourselves as opponents of rape culture.

The core of female oppression is the appropriation of our reproduction, care provision and sexuality by more powerful social sectors, for the purpose of maintaining their power. (In this era, we’re talking men and the capitalist class.) Our speech is discouraged and ignored. We are impeded from shaping society, but society insists on shaping us.

This means that a prerequisite for feminism is supporting women in working out which boundaries we want to set and maintain in support of our political, social and individual needs, as well as safety. Not jeering at girls and women who defend these boundaries. “How are you going to keep the attendance female-born – are you planning on doing panty checks at the door?” has to be one of the most shameful responses to anyone organising a female-only activity*, whether it be commercial, social or political. And yet I was part of a socialist group in which some members did that. It’s one of my more embarrassing memories of the Australian Democratic Socialist Party’s intervention at a Fem X (student feminist) conference in the late nineties, and I don’t think I said anything in response.

As yet we often have no means of ensuring that participants in events specifically for the oppressed always meet the set criteria. But where the event is for women, it’s crucial that we support that intention, rather than jeering at it. Whether we advocate for female autonomy, or ridicule it, has a real impact on the social value placed on women’s boundaries.  It will affect how many try deliberately flouting those boundaries because they get a thrill out of it or see it as important to their ego. It will affect whether women who are violated get social support afterwards.

And frankly, “we shouldn’t support women in having any autonomy because we can’t fully achieve it” has to be either one of the stupidest, or most dishonest, stances out there. That sounds to me a lot like you don’t see the value in it because if you did, you’d realise that some respect for boundaries is a hell of a lot better than having hundreds trampling over them.

Of course, we’re taught to respond to the difficulty in achieving social support for female boundaries by rounding in on women, not on those who want to violate them. It’s easier to criticise those with less social power, isn’t it. Tell us we have the wrong position.

As will be clear to some reading this, this is especially topical. Right now, the organisers of an Australian commercial event, Seven Sisters Festival, are copping criticism** on news sites which detail the ‘transphobia’ of an event which told some prospective participants that the event is for women and post-op transwomen only.

This venting, often by those on the political Left, even takes the form of accusing the organisers of wanting to check people’s genitals. It should be clear to anyone with a semblance of feminist politics that making accusations that women want to look at or touch someone’s genitals is – outside of specific contexts, such as making out – sexual harassment. It is especially bad to make this accusation when their hypothetical ‘victim’ of enforced panty-checks would be the transgressor of female boundaries in that scenario.

Women on the Seven Sisters Festival Facebook event page experienced a fair amount of such sexual harassment. It would be great if the political Left developed the politics required to recognise and combat this sort of misogyny (reading that link is important), even though this particular commercial enterprise is unlikely to interest most socialists at least. My experience is that much of this Left does not recognise sexual harassment, nor understand its gendered nature. That is, that it flows from and reinforces the power males as a sex have over females, especially on the sexual/reproductive axis. It is not a gender-neutral activity, although males also deserve not to be targetted by it.

Female-only spaces are not inherently free from disability inaccessibility, racism or awful politics. Defending women’s boundaries does not mean agreement with all individual female-only spaces or processes. But if you don’t think that even the politically worst women-only group deserves to be defended from male sexual aggression, you’re no feminist.  And isn’t it about time women were free from the constant “transwomen, transwomen” derailment of the many important issues affecting us.

 

An earlier version of this article was posted at A Room Of Our Own

 

*  It is  far from being the only or even main reason for desiring female-only spaces/projects, but the limited research done so far on people after ‘sex reassignment’ indicates that transwomen retain a male pattern in criminality, including with violent offences: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0016885
**There is also criticism of the Festival as being inappropriate towards indigenous cultures, and some of this does appear to be valid. And in general, the commercial nature of the event means various kinds of deficiencies, so that it is not especially worthwhile for women to invest much in it – and racialised women especially should not be expected to. The point of this piece is to oppose the enabling of sexual harassment.

 

Advertisements

Online unionist/ socialist misogyny – Ark Tribe and Andrew Ian Jamieson (‘Jammo’)

Earlier this year I was removed from the Revolutionary Socialist Party – an unconstitutional* expulsion in which I was given no notice of disciplinary proceedings, and my right to have my appeal heard was ignored.

The party itself didn’t exist in much more than name, and had an internal culture that was quite hostile to women members wanting less sexism, and wanting us to maintain our marxism in the face of general pressure to accede to poststructuralism, especially in feminist activism. Nonetheless I had tried to stay a member (and was still financial) in case I could somehow help it find its way again. (As part of the former Democratic Socialist Party, it had had an impressive activist history, including in feminism, a heritage which it would be tragic to lose.)

I may update this post later with the details of my expulsion and appeal (sadly for the RSP’s admirable history, it omitted the real reason for expelling me – my being at odds with the internal anti-feminist culture – and made some easily debunkable claims about my not having made membership payments).

My illness means that compiling documents referencing multiple matters is physically difficult for me and makes me sicker. So I haven’t compiled the detailed information about the RSP that the young women whom it attempts to recruit using its ‘feminist’ credentials have a right to know. My aim is not to endorse the sexist silencing technique that tells women that their differences with sexist forces are “a personal matter” – they are not. We need to work past the conditioning which tells each and every one of us that in documenting these matters, even if it is after decades of trying to build a party while making no external criticism, that we are somehow ‘petty’ or apolitical. We cannot think such a think while valuing the revolutionary party. These things need to be discussed.

For now, here is a link** to a Facebook discussion (a group of posts) I was involved in, in which a well-known Australian militant unionist and his friends engaged in vilification of feminists and lesbians (so, vilification of women, due to the message that any woman who disagrees with our role of subjugation within the hetero family unit needs to be socially humiliated), and sexual harassment. Near the end of this, a man who is held up as a central leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (but had formally lapsed 5 or so months before this incident, and had not been rejoined by the time of my expulsion***), Andrew Ian ‘Jammo’ Jamieson, turned up not to add his solidarity with me against this treatment, but to give apparent endorsement to the behaviour of Ark Tribe and his friends.

 

* The RSP Constitution is here. It is broad enough to be used in a range of scenarios, and is designed to prevent the Party from being undermined by the personal limitations or agenda of individual members or factions, including those on leadership bodies, or by guilt being established by gossip or unexamined prejudice. The disciplinary procedures enable a range of complaints to be tested in a way that allows all involved to comment.

If a member is engaging in behaviour destructive to the party, for instance, disciplinary procedures allow charges to be designed around that. This requires evidence around that to be provided by the complainant and charged members, so the charged member has an opportunity to answer to this, and the complainants need to justify their claims.

No formal disciplinary measures can substitute for the conscious promotion of a culture where sexism and bullying are discouraged (and not treated as the responsibility of individual women to address) since without proper education on these things, the manner of approaching these problems, even at the formal, disciplinary level, will always be affected.

However, there is no good reason for not adhering to the measures provided by a constitution which caters to many scenarios.


**
If that link doesn’t work (eg if you don’t have Open Office installed), try this one.


***
The anti-feminism of Andrew Jamieson is relevant because it highlights even further the extremely poor judgement, and cliquism, of the RSP leadership in continuing to allow him to attend leadership meetings and harass me about my membership even while his own membership had, according to the Constitution and as reported in Perth, lapsed some time ago (nearly a year earlier, by the time of my removal).