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gender & sexuality | human & civil rights

Anti-feminist rhetoric among Portland "radicals" is MISOGYNY and, frankly, SHAMEFUL

I've been alarmed to observe a rising and increasingly shrill rhetoric of misogyny erupting from the mouths of people who present themselves as "radical." Labels like "TERF" and "cisSCUM" and articles like these, for instance, are increasingly showing up here on Indymedia, a forum once careful about not propagating hate speech:  link to portland.indymedia.org. Why?
I've watched as a former friend spiraled down this road, at one low point donning a mask and hoodie and assaulting a feminist at a speaking engagement, not once but TWICE. I watched as people I once respected began going on tirades, shouting down feminists and interrupting conferences, using the most misogynist of hate speech and in some cases, outright violence to get those uppity women back into line. And I quietly said nothing, because I was afraid of the increasingly threatening and reactionary attacks I've seen against others who have dared to question this dynamic. But I was shaken out of complacency recently by the deaths of seven people in Santa Barbara, murdered by one man's misogyny and then victim-blamed by a culture that would question why *wouldn't* those uppity girls date that poor guy, anyway. (See, for instance:  http://thinkprogress.org/home/2014/05/25/3441489/yesallwomen/.) Suddenly, I am forcibly reminded that misogyny KILLS. And that silence is complicity.

And so I am speaking up at last. I find it shameful that in the pacific NW, what began as a debate about women-only spaces was allowed to erupt into a staggering level of hatred poured out onto women, feminists, and feminist organizations. Misogyny is not new, but the places where it is suddenly en vogue again are surprising (Indymedia, for instance). The question of whether or not women-only spaces should mean women only, or whether it should include transgendered people, is a worthy topic of discussion. There are good points on both sides of this argument, and a reasoned discourse could likely have produced understanding and answers to the question. Instead, people calling themselves "activists" (but behaving more like egotists) launched into such vitriolic hate campaigns against feminists in general, and radical feminists in particular, that the entire community still reels from the shame.

One thing that has come to light for me in all this: It turns out that a lot of us don't question each other enough on specifics when we start "calling each other out." For instance, there have been over-the-top claims about certain feminist organizations (eg, claims from one of the articles linked to above, claiming that radical feminists "want trans folks to be outlawed and be executed in prison unless they go back to their birth sex"). Just because some angry person at the Red & Black says something doesn't necessarily make it true any more than some angry person making claims on Fox News. So when someone tells us that this or that activist or organization committed this or that UNFORGIVABLE SIN, how about exercising a little critical thinking skills? How about asking some questions, moving past the rhetoric, and getting to specifics. How about examining the facts for oneself and then coming to one's own conclusions, rather than the ready-made conclusion handed to you by the person demanding that this or that activist or organization needs to be shamed into submission?

The situation gets particularly dicey when the interests of one traditionally oppressed group are pitted against those of another. No one wants to side with the oppressor. So it would seem that caution would be in order before jumping onto the bandwagon of condemnation when it is the interests of transgendered people being juxtaposed against the interests of women who want to be free to explore issues relevant to women in a safe space without being silenced and shouted down by males. Both women AND transgendered people have experienced violent oppression. Both feminists and transgendered people have experienced silencing, have been dismissed, have been subjected to their own holocausts. This is precisely why the hate rhetoric and silencing tactics being used against feminists in this debate are so utterly inappropriate. Because we are steeped in a culture of misogyny, where women are routinely silenced and ignored, where women are talked over, talked down to, and shit talked. And now, those very tactics are being used to entrench that misogyny in the radical world.

Suddenly, anyone who isn't ready to condemn the idea of women-only spaces is a transphobic hate monger who wants to see transgendered people thrown in prison or killed. Cis SCUM. TERFs. Except... that's just not the truth. Why is that kind of shameless and hyperbolic nonsense not questioned with more reasoning skills? Would this kind of hate speech have taken fire if the alleged "villains" were men and not feminist women? I doubt it.