I found this extremely interesting and challenging. The reaction was ‘is this necessary today?” was immediate as was my slow realisation of that irritation being cognitive dissonance at work. It’s a powerful piece open to vast misinterpretation but capable of raising some real questions about real power.I actually reacted very strongly, and as always now that causes me to ask, “WHY?” I think it was partly because I’ve not seen such an overt expression since early Germaine Greer and my reaction was first to say, “But it’s not that bad now.” My instinctive reaction like others’ was to think of the ‘notallmen’ who we knew to be allies or to have reasons for their errors, family, friends. My almost instant denial, – “But what about my partner he’s my carer and an ally” fascinated me as a woman with a domestic abuse and family abuse history because it made me see, “Yes now!” If I feel protected I am deluded because my daily insistence that my allies see how disablism and chauvinism intersect are too frequent to be insignificant for they mean that the system is failing disabled women and failing women domestically and politically and socially in every system. If I feel I NEED the ‘protection of a man’ in 2015 Britain then any protection a spouse or a carer could give must be a lie!
I think it also highlights the gaps in feminism: privilege of the white able western female in a position to attack before the support is in place for people whose other identities and situations may be vulnerable to violence or abandonment. I recognise a retreat into the safe patriarchal support that as a disabled woman is about all I have and thus a fascinating insight into what makes women reject feminism and feminists so strongly for fear of male pushback and removal of protection, fear that the power will not live up to the promise and that the oppressive systems are unbeatable. And in that moment the realisation: I’m at war with my own reality!
As someone who identified totally with the history of feminism and the Female Eunuch (even though it was a historic text by the time I read it c.2000 simply because I was in a deeply chauvinistic relationship and have in many senses remained trapped in a deeply chauvinistic and paternalistic structure perpetuated by women and men on disabled people, I can relate both to the fear Nick expressed on misidentification and the unease we feel that ‘we’ve come far enough’ which I instantly recognise as the fearful privileged white Western female response! My reaction is at war with not just the reality of many many non cis non white non male identified persons (not all of them women) but my own and still my subconscious desire is for a decorous polite feminism far removed from the power of a 1960s feminism Viz satire target!
As a feminist I get pushback from men, and as a disabled woman a high incidence of assaults both sexual and social have occurred in my life – some by men but many abetted by women prepared to accept my subjection to men if not their own. The literal example being my mother’s statement on potential spousal abuse which my partner was deeply shocked by: “If he hits you it’s because you’ve been annoying”. THAT SHOCK and disgust of course DOES NOT STOP A GOOD ALLY FROM BEING FAR FROM PERFECT AND CREATING MANY MANY TENSIONS THAT A SINGLE OR AN ABLE-BODIED WOMAN NEVER MEETS.
I can get misidentified as privileged by other disabled people due to an education actually I might as well have not had since I cannot access what it is ‘supposed’ to achieve; paid work and cannot access the knowledge due to a brain injury. So in Tory Britain the threat of violence is never far from my thoughts. Simultaneously I can be misidentified as straight by people who actually are really rather happier if they don’t have to think about disabled sexuality at all and then misidentified as sexual and a traitor to feminism for having a male/carer partner. The last incident of this was aggressive and distressing feminist backlash at a Pride event: try to imagine the level of control needed to override a desire you have to have to yell at the first ‘man’ to enter a women’s only space but then how anti-cis white male you have to be to try to provoke a reaction from a wheelchair using queer woman in what is supposed to be _her_ safe space too? It is probably impossible with the memory of that inchoate violence and mocking laughter and invasion of personal space right on the boundaries of a place that should’ve been violence free to resist the reaction to close ranks against visibly radical feminism.
If my first reaction was rejection it was linked to that incident and the fear of a physical abuse and threats based on the perception of a man who protects me and the fellow feminists who teetered on the edge of physical violence. I find this fascinating as a historian. The anti women’s suffrage movement must have arisen from such fears and reactions and did in fact fail to support women from the working classes as effectively as it did middleclass supporters. My fears may be well founded on an awareness of needing protection that I wish I did not need and campaign to improve and which I know would not be necessary in a truly equal society or one in which all women truly supported one another or indeed if all ‘groups’ truly formed networks of support and progress for those within them. Any questioning of the status quo recognises a need that stems from the realities of the systems and its violence towards many non-privileged people. This piece attempted flag up an oppressive and real existing system, whatever reactions it recieved.
I hate to sound like a one-note wonder but since even going around in a chair pushed by a cis het male gets abuse… even women with male carers can be bi- though I never _Really_ expected to need to say that!
! It’s the privilege of linguistic and emotional fluency to be able to confront someone giving you aggression or erasure however much the actual aggression is not a privilege at all. When you’re juggling multiple erasure, multiple identities and intersectional aggressions The fact that deliberate exclusion can be explained away by people practised at arguing for the rights of specific groups is no compliment to the uses they make of their gains at the expense of others. The jawdropping ‘side-eye’ that I got at Pride for being with a man, scratch that I came within an ace of being lifted bodily by all-female security staff on a very slim pretext has highlighted that there’s potential for more than erasure. I was shocked to discovered there could BE more overt aggression than the UKs current disablism even though intellectually I know many people’s disablism is far more covert than their other phobias or racism. That my awareness that other bisexuals may profit from my analysing the situation, the microaggressions and erasure and phobia is good but it’s still reverberating in my chest somewhere between frustration and panic as a real emotion, real distress that on top of disablism and years of invisibility and invalidation as a straight woman with circumscribed sexual rights and denial of disabled sexuality permeating all cultural exchanges, being erroneously outed as a lesbian by your own sister purely because ‘lesbian’ deflected attention from her shame at having a crippled sister disablism and homophobia putting me at dual risk of rape, there’s all THIS. That the pattern is familiar it turns out doesn’t mean it’s easier to navigate!