What do these three things have in common?
Anyone who is a radical feminist and has ever been to Melbourne would be able to tell you. First some background.
The Australian Sex Party is a political party whose leader Fiona Patten is a “sex” industry profiteer- CEO of the Eros Association, a company that owns multiple sex shops and
organised sexual assault pornography websites. They pride themselves on a number of deceptively progressive policies behind which they hide their dedication to the mass sexual enslavement of women.
Socialist Alternative (SAlt) are a militant Trotskyist
political party organisation who pretty much everyone who isn’t a SAlt member thinks are a joke. You may remember them from such hits as being obnoxious on national television, being obnoxious in a supermarket, and tokenising their comrade who committed suicide in order to prove that they’re not transphobic.
What they have in common is that they comprise vocal elements of the annual “pro-choice” rally in Melbourne, which is held to counter-protest a “pro-life” march called March For the Foetuses or something similarly demented. This counter-protest is pretty important to us Melbournian feminists, as it is literally the only regular women-orientated action (besides weekly clinic defenses at the East Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic). Considering that these anti-woman activists like to harass women and murder clinic employees, we find it necessary to show up and make sure they all know that we fucking hate them. A group called Campaign for Women’s Reproductive rights “officially” organises this protest and for some reason the Sex Party also has a big hand in the promotion of this rally, as its members can be seen handing out flyers, advertising the party and getting creepy dudes to make speeches with frequent references to women’s genitals. SAlt- being a reactionary mob of quasi-political uni students- also have a large presence, and can be identified at pretty much every protest ever by their repetitive, unoriginal chanting and shoving copies of Red Flag into everyone’s faces.
Oh, did I mention that some women aren’t welcome at this protest?
This year was the first in five that I didn’t bother to attend. After doing an impromptu speech on my second year, I was invited to speak at the next rally. Curiously, the year after, I received no such invitation. Apparently it was because I had voiced anti-“sex” industry opinions on my personal facebook page. How my support for the criminalisation of pimps and johns has anything to do with advocating for abortion rights has not yet been explained to me. After some harassment, threats of physical violence, and doxxing from male Sex Party members, I took it all on the chin and showed up to last year’s rally anyway.
This year, a young woman with similar views to mine attended the rally with her friends. She is a vocal online radical feminist and lesbian activist and was accosted by a member of SAlt. She was physically intimidated and verbally abused to the point that she had a severe panic attack and had to be assisted by street medics. The woman who attacked her (and I shan’t post details with respect to the victim’s safety) responded to criticism by labeling the victim “transphobic” and used the slurs “cis” and “TERF” in the following tirade of harassment instigated by her and her comrades. The victim is understandably shaken and outraged by the way she was made to feel unsafe at a protest that claims to support women.
Her outrage is not enough. There should be public outrage.
This is by no means the first time radical women have been attacked in activist spaces (NOTE: do not confuse with the small and innapropriately named socialist/liberal feminist group Radical Women, who also have a significant presence at the annual counter-protest, and have penned articles for MRA websites). And it will by no means be the last. But this is the prevailing issue with the Left.
Another example of bullying radical feminists out of political spaces can be seen in this statement from Anarchist Affinity, an anarcho-communist fringe group based in Melbourne. This
vagueblog statement was issued in response to an event I organised earlier this year called ‘A Woman’s Place is in the Revolution: Discussing Feminist Visibility in Radical Politics’. The event was a small discussion group of about 20 women and its goal was to discuss strategies to make the Left safer for women with opinions. Not just RF women, all women. The discussion had literally nothing to do with gender criticism, the sex industry, or anything else that liberal feminists tend to get up in arms about. Demonstrating my point perfectly, AA and “non-affiliated” friends of theirs sent a slew of abuse to myself and the custodians of the space where the event was held, at one point threatening to organise a picket outside the building. After having witnessed one of their members assault a young man at another meeting, I felt it necessary to organise security for the evening. Thankfully none of their cronies showed up, but the fact that this was necessary should cause anyone with a brain to feel pretty concerned about the state of female visibility in the Left.
It is astoundingly obvious that the ostracisation radical feminists face from activist spaces has nothing to do with actual political ideology. Trotskyists are able to march alongside anarchists. Sex Party affiliates manage to attend events organised by anti-capitalists. But neither are apparently able to attend a protest attended by a few 20-something year old women who blog about women’s experiences under patriarchy. They’re doing what the patriarchy has done for years-Divide and Conquer. Why? No one is 100% sure, but I’d wager that it has something to do with a fear of women speaking up about their oppression and their experiences. What’s that called again? Muh-so…mis-oh..misogy….
So where does that leave radical women who want a part in the Left and radical politics? Proposals have been made to form an alliance that works within Leftist groups and provides a support network for outspoken women who have been intimidated for expressing their views (as well as women who have been too intimidated to express their views in the first place). This is a step in the right direction, in theory, and plans are currently underway here in Melbourne. Any woman who is involved in the online (or offline) radical feminist community knows the degree of sisterhood, safety, and solidarity that we can offer each other. The voices just need to get louder. We need to maintain a presence in political spaces and to focus on direct action. Patriarchy funnels down into the left and those misogynistic attitudes need to be challenged before we can move on to challenging society at large. Because feminism is one of the important “new” ideologies driving the Left forward, it’s about time those ungrateful little shits started treating it with the respect it deserves. Each “wave” of feminism has seen its similar struggles, but the Third Wave hasn’t properly happened until the most important struggle in feminist history has been won: prioritising women in the movement, and gaining respect for women within that movement itself.
The Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights: Much like Tony Abbott’s cabinet, we can have one or two as long as they do as we say.