Popular feminism: Allying with abusers and trashing feminists
Last month I wrote a piece stating that I would not be supporting Canada’s supposed Next Top Progressive Startup, Ricochet. I explained how disappointed I was to see yet another leftist publication supporting the decriminalization of pimps and johns and misrepresenting abolitionists and feminists who advocate for the Nordic model. I pointed out that the feminists who had been brought on as editors and contributors were women who appeared to have been intentionally selected because of their particular brand of feminism: a pro-sex work, anti-radical kind of feminism. Some were women who engaged in unprovoked trashing and slandering of me and my allies. I was disappointed by this and said so. But that was only half of the story.
What I felt I couldn’t say publicly at the time, but did say privately to a number of people, was that I could not and would not support any platform, publication, or organization involving an allegedly abusive man. And unfortunately I had been provided with information from more than one source that one of the men who co-founded Ricochet had been accused of abuse.
Because the stories I’d been told were not mine to tell, there was little I could say about what I, and many others in the Canadian progressive community, had heard. When I learned that this man would be a founder and editor at Ricochet, I was livid. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. So I asked for solidarity. I couldn’t name names but I knew full-well that the information circulating around this particular man had been communicated to many in the progressive community, yet he was still being allowed a position as some kind of leftist leader. No one was holding him to account. People who were willing to trash me publicly, simply because they disagreed with my feminist politics, were unwilling to cut ties with or call out a man who had been accused of abuse.
I’m still shocked at how little women’s lives matter to progressives. You seem to be able to wrap your heads around just about everything else but female oppression (or you claim to, in any case). Over and over again I watch women leave abusers only to see them be propped up by other men and women as progressives and radicals, supported by their communities. Women are betrayed time and time again by those who are meant to be their allies. And it fucking hurts.
After I published my piece about Ricochet a woman contacted me. She said this man had sexually assaulted her. Shortly thereafter she published a post detailing her account. The post was circulated widely among the progressive community. He had his lawyer contact her and demand she remove the post. He threatened to sue her if she spoke of the allegations publicly. She took the post down.
As you’ve probably gathered, I still don’t feel I can “name names” with regard to the alleged perpetrator. I have no doubt that I, too, would be threatened with legal action. I know these kinds of men. I lived with one. After I left him and began to tell my community about my experiences with him, he also threatened to sue me. This is how bullies and abusers function. With threats. They will stop at nothing to silence their victims and to maintain their positions of power. They need to control the discourse. They are looking out for number one — always.
But I am tired of sitting on this information — information many of us have been hearing about for months, years even — knowing that the victims are out there watching as this man continues to move through leftist circles, writing about progressive politics and even rape culture, now at the head of a leftist publication, while they are abandoned. By us — by feminists, by progressives — by the very people who should be supporting victims, fighting male violence against women, and holding sexist men to account. It makes me physically ill, in part because I’ve experienced it (though perhaps on a smaller scale).
There is no doubt in my mind that the women involved with Ricochet* — only too willing to trash and attack me because I refuse to pretend that the sex industry is a site of female empowerment or simply “a job like any other” — are fully aware of these allegations and rumours. I’d like to hear from them on this issue. If they are so willing to speak out against other feminists, they should be willing to speak out against rape culture in their ranks.
Because what the fuck kind of feminism attacks other feminists while allying and working with abusive men??
Here’s a radical idea: my feminism is one that’s here for women, not abusive men — not pimps, not johns, and most certainly not men who have been accused of abuse and sexual assault. Feminists are free to and always have disagreed on various issues; but the least we could ally on, one would think, is solidarity with women.
I am not aware of what — if anything — has gone on behind the scenes. For all I know this man has also demanded that female contributors and editors at Ricochet remain silent on these accusations. But have they been forced to continue working with him? Allying with him? Standing by while yet another victim is silenced?
This isn’t feminism, this is bullshit.
*EDITOR’S NOTE, 08/05/2014: I’ve since learned that a few women involved with Ricochet were not, in fact, complicit in ignoring/defending the individual in question and did ask for accountability privately but were ignored. They chose never to speak out publicly against the individual or the site.
**UPDATE, 06/24/2105: A number of women, as of late, have publicly aligned themselves with Ricochet and/or begun writing for the platform, including Harsha Walia. The editor in question is still on the editorial board.