Calling all allies: Why I am not a woman, apparently
A few months ago I wrote a piece for New Matilda criticising the feminist left which almost got me booted off the internet.
For suggesting that it is making enemies of its allies, while doing very little to actually affect equality, particularly for the working poor, the unemployed and those living in countries where people don’t have the luxury of online shaming exercises, I was called a ‘hack’, ‘scumbag’, ‘apologist’, a ‘Stepford wife’, ‘crackpot’, ‘ignorant’, ‘nasty’ and ‘trash’.
One particular author questioned my credentials and right to speak as a feminist. (We are not all card-carrying members of the same club, and even if we were, it is not one I would ever wish to be associated with).
“I am struggling with the idea that this author has as much right to express her view as all of the other writers you have published,” wrote one objector. “[She] has provided no more evidence as to her position as a feminist than self identification.”
Dr Johnson outlined how the intent of my article was twisted, rewritten and rebranded as a diatribe telling women to behave themselves. To the contrary, my argument concerned the utility of antagonism and the social cost of making enemies out of potential allies. She also noted that many in the feminist movement would prefer it if men didn’t engage, even as some continue to collect Patreon donations from the ‘brocialists’ they claim to despise.
“Women’s attitudes to these issues have tangible implications for feminism and for women,” Dr Johson writes.
“If men aren’t our problem, for instance, what are the ramifications for violence-prevention programs such as these: Woke Feminist Men: Engaging Black Men and Boys on Sexual Violence Activism?
“To combat male violence against women, a range of initiatives in black communities in America seek to ‘deprogram men’ by ‘unpack[ing]sexist hetero-norms and attitudes about gender roles, gender identity and male bonding around violence’. The programs ‘Recogniz[e]young men and boys as violence victims/survivors’ themselves, and as targets of ‘multinational corporations that promote and profit from sexist, misogynist images of women of colour’.
“Among the programs’ organisers are Black Women For Wellness and Wisdom From The Field, a ‘family of community members working to end the struggle felt by the Black family in our communities’. Part of their programs’ mission is to create ‘Black male feminist allies’ and activists.
“Perhaps, having fought slavery and segregation, American Black women never enjoyed the historical luxury of thumbing their noses at their oppressors. Perhaps they know something we white women don’t about overcoming oppression. Perhaps they understand the importance of fighting systemic causes rather than each other.”
When I revealed that I was Jewish Irish, I was told in no uncertain terms that because people couldn’t distinguish it at first blush, I was white, therefore I had privilege. Apparently I was no better than a white man.
I don’t know whether to be flattered or fucked off.
My cultural history, the religions and cultures in which I was raised, the rewards of my parents’ years of hard work, and late nights, and sacrifice and compromise, all conveniently white-washed to suit the political arguments of the feminist far left.
I didn’t mean to omit that detail from the piece. It was in an earlier draft. I don’t know how it came to be left out but I’ll admit frankly, that there was a part of me which just didn’t want to deal with the inevitable anti-semitic posts that usually follow a revelation like this.
And follow they did, along with all the usual cliches. Particularly those relating to money.
I’m a journalist. I’m lucky if I’ll crack $60k a year.
The merits of my argument should not increase or decrease based on my ethnicity. Nor should anyone else’s.
Subconsciously there was a part of me waiting to be called on it. White Privilege. This movement that claims to be working against discrimination, and against a culture that judges people by what sits between their legs or below their shoulders, the colour or texture of their hair or skin, told me that my personal story and history didn’t matter. Because they thought I was white.
And I am white. But I am also Jewish. And Catholic. And a fairly indifferent agnostic. And even if I weren’t all of those things, my personal experience still would not sublimate my race or credibility, or vice versa.
I am the grateful beneficiary of an education and of parents who benefited from the prosperity of the Howard era. But to put privilege above all else white-washes over not just my culture and heritage, it diminishes the cultural history of all people who don’t fit into a neat little category.
Assuming my race because you don’t like what I have to say is as offensive as dismissing someone based on their gender. It’s funny how feminism is beginning to co-opt the tactics of those they claim to oppose.
My grandfather flew in the war. My grandmother risked jail time and significant fines to fight the apartheid regime. And she paid the fines of people without identification cards and hid in her home those wanted by the government for committing the audacious offence of fighting for equality under the law. My father’s family home was destroyed in Hitler’s Blitzkrieg attacks. And from a fairly Angela’s Ashes style upbringing, he left England, his family and everything he knew with 50 pounds in his pocket on a months-long journey by boat to South Africa in search of work at a time when few people wanted Catholics in their businesses.
Likewise, my mother left her family and everything she knew when together my parents immigrated to Australia in search of a better life. (I wonder if they would even be granted a visa if they were making the attempted journey today). My brother and I are living proof of their achievements. Being informed and fighting for the equal treatment of all people was our debt to society.
To say that any success they achieved is the result only of the colour of their skin is offensive, simplistic and plain untrue.
To say as much white-washes over centuries of history in which many people we would now consider to be white were just as much a victim of capitalism, feudalism, aristocracies and other historical structures designed to concentrate wealth at the top of the status ladder, to the detriment of all others.
It ignores the fact that less than half a century ago Jews, Asians, Italians, Catholics, Latinos and many more, including those of mixed heritage who would have been considered part of the non-white variety have been co-opted into white culture for political purposes.
I don’t know what I am beyond some pale beige. I was raised Jewish but will never be considered part of the Jewish community. My father is Catholic but I’ll never be considered a Catholic, or an Anglo. I am a feminist but I will never be considered one by its self-appointed leaders. And according to some of the comments that were made about me, apparently I am not a woman either. Winner, winner chicken dinner. Achievement unlocked: status upgrade.
I was prepared for the backlash. I took a few days offline. But it took Clementine Ford and Co a fortnight or so before they stumbled upon my op-ed. I was ‘ambushed’ weeks later by a tsunami of vitriol and intimidation just as aggressive as any man (see ladies, you are equal). Turns out women make death threats as well as any man.
I was floored. It was like I had been punched in the gut.
I felt like I had been dispossessed. Whitewashed into someone else’s narrative and agenda.
Because my views on the great damage this movement is doing to democracy sit outside the popular zeitgeist – booo WHITE MEN! – I am apparently unworthy of employment and New Matilda should no longer continue operating. People like Clementine Ford and her band of blind followers did whatever they could within their power to run us both out of business.
By the way, there is nothing quite like having someone whiter than you are tell you that you benefit from white privilege.
By their own logic, Ford and all of her alabaster allies ought to resign and hand in their membership cards right now, leaving feminism only to those who are brown, or olive, or beige, or black or poor.
But if feminism is committed to true equality (and I question very much that it is), discussions that make us uncomfortable become all the more essential. Progress is the result of accepting more than one idea at a time.
My personal belief is that when you work towards improving the economic security of all people: including men, including women, and those who identify as neither, it results in almost everything feminism sets out to achieve in the first place.
We are victims in someone else’s game. As Dr Johnson wrote far more eloquently than I ever could: activism is being pitted against itself.
“Psychologists call it mobilising hate, and mobilising a population for war. Shutting down dissent is an important preparatory phase.”
Trying to put me or New Matilda or anyone else who disagrees with you out of business is time spent not addressing the actual problems that keep so many of us enslaved to a system that no amount of hard-work can overcome.
If we are ever to return to a time when we share in the prosperity and profits of our hard work, we are going to need every ally we can get our hands on.
It would help if you didn’t snark at them when they only have one foot in the door.