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Not My Comrades: on dealing with the SWP

– Martha PW

(content note for mentions of sexual violence, rape apology, misogyny)

The Socialist Workers’ Party are rapists and rape apologists, they covered up rape in their ranks and victimised women who came forward about it and decried “creeping feminism”, whatever that is, as an evil sectarian force, they are a writhing nest of misogyny and they are not a friend to women on the left. There was a huge exodus of former members because of the SWP’s complete and utter refusal to be anything other than horrendous misogynist rape apologists. You can read more about that here.

Despite this, they are an omnipresent force at protests in the UK. You will probably see their stalls at demos, you will probably see them handing out their shitty backwards-facing rape apologist newspaper The Socialist Worker, and you will almost certainly see a lot of people holding placards with their name on it. This means protests and demos become a space where women – especially those who have faced sexual violence / abuse / harassment – are not safe or comfortable among the people who are supposed to be on their side. Feeling unsafe at a protest because of the threat of police etc is one thing; feeling as though your allies are throwing you under the bus for the sake of a placard someone handed them is something else entirely.

If you’re at a demo in the upcoming weeks/months/years you can help to deal with this:

  • DON’T TAKE SWP PLACARDS/PAPERS/ETC. just don’t take them. just don’t. make your own. take any other placard. whatever. if you really really want to be holding a sign and the only one available to you is a SWP placard, consider bringing paper & tape / a sharpie to the demo with you so you can cover up the SWP logo. but if you can’t do that it is better to have no sign than to have a misogynist organisation’s sign.
  • DON’T LET YOUR FRIENDS TAKE THOSE THINGS EITHER. friends don’t let friends support corrupt rape apologists. explain why you’re refusing to tacitly support the SWP by holding their signs and tell everyone else to do the same thing.
  • CONTACT THE PEOPLE ORGANISING
    — in advance, email or facebook message the organisers of the demo asking if there will be a SWP presence (even if they say no it is likely the SWP will show up anyway) and asking whether it will be tolerated if so. stress the fact that the presence of the SWP actively alienates women (who are, after all, one of the marginalised groups likely to be most affected by whatever it is you’re protesting about, e.g. tory cuts); stress the fact that women will not show up to the demo, or will show up and feel upset and unsafe and triggered, if the SWP are there. encourage stuff like a post on the facebook event making clear that rape apologist organisations will not be tolerated at the demo.
    — on the day, and if you feel up to it, talk to stewards (demo stewards, not police stewards) about it if you see a SWP stall or a SWP member handing out placards etc, encourage them to ask the SWP to leave (as politely or impolitely as they feel is appropriate).
    — IF THE ORGANISERS IGNORE / DISMISS YOU despite your explanation of why the SWP are an unacceptable presence at protests, or if they are actively affiliated with the SWP, spread that shit on social media, because people who brush off these criticisms should be held accountable for their lack of care for women in their movement.
  • MAKE SURE YOU ARE LOOKING OUT FOR WOMEN (whatever your gender) at demos and in other activist spaces where this conflict about the SWP might arise. many many left-wing spaces feel latently hostile and unwelcoming to women already, because they are (like everywhere else) usually male-dominated and issues of sexism and misogyny are brushed aside as women’s problems for women to deal with. this feeling of being pushed out of what should be our movement gets far worse when our complaints about sexual violence in the left are dismissed as ‘divisive’ and ‘sectarian’, especially at protests when emotions are already running high. it’s exhausting to have to defend our right to safety among our ‘comrades’ over and over again. back up your women friends in these arguments, don’t let them face rape apologists alone.
  • IN GENERAL – IF YOU’RE A MAN, consider what you can be doing to make your leftist spaces and politics inclusive and welcoming to women; the SWP is only one particularly bad example of an endemic problem. consider a statement or policy of condemnation of the SWP. more broadly, if your group/organisation is predominantly male, ask yourself why that has happened – it’s probably not a coincidence – and how you can fix it. check whether women have ended up doing most of your work, whether that’s activist labour or emotional. pay attention to the language you’re using and whether it erases women’s struggles in favour of a homogenous or outdated idea of ‘class’ or ‘work’. steer clear of calls for “unity” and against “sectarianism” or “division”, which are usually used to shut women up.

Certainly a lot of people holding those placards at demos are ignorant of the crimes of the organisation that made them, and we can only fix that by sharing the knowledge of the SWP’s misogyny as widely as possible and not letting it fade into memory. But many more people know about the ‘scandal’ and continue to accept the alliance and support of these open, unapologetic, dangerous misogynists, whose existence is actively harmful to left-wing women. As long as this problem is not tackled, women will be pushed out of the movement. Organisers have no excuse.

Male nudity in public spaces

by Emily Mead

cw nudity, sexual assault, male entitlement, anxiety, mentions of genitalia, swearing, possible biological essentialism

x

i feel u mike

feminists are often accused of focusing too much on the little things and looking for offence; we  basically go through life searching for molehills to make mountains out of, because that’s just our idea of fun, I guess!!! so when I complain about cis men stripping down and parading around topless during summer, or drunk men peeing in public, some people just assume it’s because I’ve run out of Important Things to be angry about.

chances are, if you’re a cis man, you might vaguely know that this is annoying, but never really think about how harmful this sort of behaviour is. that’s probably because cis male nudity is normalised throughout childhood and in popular culture, whereas female nudity is portrayed as an exclusively sexual thing… cis male nudity is so commonplace that you can get away with doing it without anyone batting an eyelid (or at least, with no-one feeling safe enough to tell you it makes them uncomfortable).

cis men exposing their bodies in public spaces is really fucking irritating because just shows how entitled they feel to public spaces (you might also have heard of / partaken in manspreading). when you take your shirt off because it’s hot outside, when you pee in public because you can’t be arsed to find a bathroom, when you send unsolicited dick pics for whatever reason you thought was appropriate (???), you are implicitly asserting your dominance and saying that your comfort matters more than everyone else’s.

as if that wasn’t enough to be upset about in the first place, this sort of crap can make survivors of sexual violence really fucking uncomfortable to say the least. Gross cis men imposing their nudity on me is a really fucking awful reminder of times when dudes felt like it was ok to subject me to way more than I’d consented to— at best displays of cis male nudity make me feel disgusted and unsafe, at worst they give me panic attacks. i’m sure (i hope?) that wasn’t the intended effect.

please please p l e a s e think about what you’re doing when you treat unwanted nudity like it’s no big deal. in future, before you pull this kind of shit, think about whether or not the people around you are okay with what you’re doing. (they’re probably not).

 

two things, in case someone has opinions about this

1— please don’t even think of talking about #freethenipple and how **everyone** should get naked for equality to be achieved. not only is it weird that you’d try to use a liberation movement for people with breasts against them just to make a point, but it’s problematic in that it mostly focuses on liberating able bodied cis white women. being able to take my top off without feeling too uncomfortable is a massive fucking privilege that I have & i have 0 interest in subjecting people to that. so yeah no, “women should get naked too!!!” is not nearly as relevant or useful as you might think

2— if a woman’s experience isn’t enough to convince you that there might be something wrong with forcing your nudity on non consenting strangers, here’s a heartfelt tale from a reformed dudebro who has seen the error of his dick displaying ways (same content warnings as this article apply + alcohol, discussion of homophobia).

Movement

[TW: suicide, physical disability]

 

Each syllable
each rounded, echoing diphthong
conveys nothing, except creating delicate
incisions in my ears

My back is bristling.
I have not felt in control of this body
ever
Let alone “at home in it”
“comfortable in my skin”

On this day my legs forget how to walk,
On this day my mind attempts to kill me
And on this day, again, I fail
To speak in ways that appease people
Whose thoughts and desires are a mystery to me.
I don’t remember doing anything with ease.
I cannot even trust my body to hold me upright.

Sexuality
is something that people who are not me
possess.
How can someone who resembles
a scuffling witch
who hobbles and aches
who stutters,
who falters and forgets
own something as
precious as this?

My humanity
and my body –
all accidentals
and false starts.
I lack identity
with your movement
with myself

Space

By Mel Berill

[TWs: misogyny, classism, ableism]

 

come back and tell me

you don’t like safe spaces

when you know what it’s like

to feel unsafe

 

when you’ve walked down a street

where you’re not human

but a piece of public flesh

 

when you’ve explained you’re ill

for the thousandth time

and you know half the world still thinks it’s fiction

 

when you know for sure

that if some people got their way

you’d have even less to live on

than you do now

 

when your home is not

cosy and safe

 

when your words are not

worshipped and valued

 

when your body is not

important.

 

come back and tell me then

that I’m not allowed a space

where people have agreed to respect me

and I them.

 

where people try not to hurt me

and I them.

 

where I can listen to people

who need safety more than me

and let their words

sit above mine.

 

where, sometimes, it’s all right

for me not to speak

or even be there

because I’m white

and cis

and I can know that sometimes, to keep people safe

i must keep quiet.

 

when you know what it’s like to need that space

come back and tell us we can’t have it.

come back and tell us then.

 

you will, of course

you’ll come back louder, stronger

full of bile

and make us listen

in your column

on your platform

through your megaphone

’til it’s deafening.

 

that’s why we need spaces

where we can’t hear you.

and fuck you

we’re going to make them.

 

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