I love feminism in the way I love some of the insights and opinions attributed to Jesus. I love it in a bell hooks kind of way:
Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys.
So it was with increasing outrage that I watched the story of Melinda Tankard Reist’s legal threats against me hijacked by one high-profile feminist after another in an unedifying brawl about who can and can’t be called a feminist. Debates about feminism: yes. Debates about who is allowed to be called a feminist: why?
One of feminism’s struggles has been about giving women a voice. So it was initially with amusement and later indignation that I saw two of Australia’s most public feminists, Eva Cox and Anne Summers, describe me in their articles as a blogger being threatened by Tankard Reist. Not even a female blogger, thank you very much, and Cox says I’m a nit picker to boot. She doesn’t name me, but she says I’m nit-picking. Any man who did that to a woman writer would be flayed.
I objected loudly to this, not as some might have it because I’m especially egotistical, though I could well be, but because this denial of my voice seems to me to exemplify a steady watering down of feminist principles, and perhaps, according to hooks’ analysis of contemporary feminism, a co-option by capitalism that has virtually disempowered it as a force for change.
Thus we are reduced to brawling in national newspapers about who can and cannot be a feminist, while the big issues raised by Tankard Reist’s action, such as freedom of speech, the politics of the economic power of one woman being used against another to silence her, are left to brilliant bloggers such as Scepticlawyer to unpack.
Interestingly, every other account of the stoush I’ve read in blogs and the MSM has named me. I become anonymous and stereotyped only in the leading feminists’ pieces. I am not well-known, therefore it isn’t necessary to name me in an MSM argument about feminists who are well-known. Yes. Capitalism has co-opted.
While I don’t believe that either Summers or Cox was being malicious, their failure to use a woman’s name in an article about feminism indicates a troubling forgetfulness as to what feminism is about.
Both women have since apologised for the oversight.
I’m receiving a steady flow of demands that I “get [my] facts straight” about the virgin birth. There are no facts about the virgin birth. There is no evidence. It’s a story. I’m as entitled as anyone else to interpret the story and comment on it. There’s a long feminist tradition of commenting on these stories and analysing them through a feminist lens. It’s but one of many options for analysis and it’s as valid as any of the others. Contest my analysis by all means, but not by demanding “facts” that simply don’t exist.
It appears that Melinda Tankard Reist can legally hold her threat of defamation action over my head for the next twelve months without doing anything more than she has already done. If she so chooses, she can continue bullying, threatening and intimidating me for the next year, and theoretically curtailing my freedom to speak for that time, as anything I write can be co-opted into her list of grievances against me to be subjected to threats of legal action.
While I don’t care if Tankard Reist is called a feminist or not, I do find it interesting that she has chosen to employ patriarchy’s most oppressive and repressive tool, the law, against me. But what is even more interesting is that neither Summers nor Cox has even remarked on this attempt to silence a woman with patriarchy’s weapons.
The last word by bell hooks:
I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.
This in the Age today: “Tankard Reist explain yourself.” A very informative piece about Tankard Reist’s background. I’m very, very glad this got up in the msm.
The editor, not the author called me “a blogger.”