Dear Laurie Penny,

I am writing to you to tell you a story about the three greatest feminists I ever knew. One was my mother in law, she was upper middle class and during World War 2 she worked in London, when she was left a widow with young children, she went to work even though her upper middle class peers disapproved, she campaigned for single parents throughout her life. You wouldn’t have liked her, she thought feminism was nonsense even though every moment of her life she could, she worked for the benefit of other women while breaking the mould and heading her own household. The second was a woman on an estate I lived on, she was built like a brick shithouse, was racist, obnoxious. Whenever she heard a bloke on that estate had battered his missus, she kicked shit out of him. She didn’t understand why I thought she was a feminist, and she thought it was nonsense but there was no domestic abuse on any estate she lived on. The third is a woman called Shagufta, a mother of several children, forced into marriage at 14, she stayed married to till she died and loved the man she was forced to marry. I watched her march into the house of a pimp holding two teenage girls and drag them out, while he stood terrified. She wouldn’t have understood a word you said but spent her life working for the benefit of other women.

I have used your name for this for several reasons. 1- your narcissism means you will read it. 2- your class and the privilege that allowed you to exploit equality actually being rolled back for millions of us for your career, means you have made yourself a figure head for the demolition of feminism. 3- Its your actual friends and your social circle this message concerns. Your close friends. Pretty much all of them from what we can see.

We need to discuss your misogyny, and your attempt to rebrand violent misogyny as feminism. We need to discuss the impact of it. I remember you once telling me that Roz Kaveney had explained to you why women needed to be targeted and harassed for the trans equality cause and I was gobsmacked. I was gobsmacked that an apparently(and appearances are deceiving) intelligent young woman did not know that targeting women with kids and bullying them, harassing them, threatening them, was not activism.  That you apparently had no ability to even recognise misogyny or violence against women and could believe that violence against women was feminism. By the time I had met your friends I realised why you cannot recognise violent misogyny. You are surrounded by it and truly think it is feminism and activism. I have been on the receiving end of it when your friends targeted me and my five year old shouting scab, because you are from a world where targeting a house with a 5 year old girl in it is feminism. Because of you I understand Bullingdon and I understand how class can distort your perspective.

I know you didn’t like the girls at your school but that doesn’t mean they did anything wrong or that being a girl was wrong. When Stavvers heads another campaign threatening and harassing women, she especially likes targeting female journalists with children, and shouting scab at women, that’s violent misogyny.  Actual violent misogyny. Actual behaviour that scares and frightens women ad kids. When you seek to frighten women its never feminism. When James and his friends target women and kids shouting scab, it’s not activism. When your editors smear women, it’s not activism. When you actively encourage psychopaths like Weev, who terrorised women, when you actively work to marginalise women of colour and drive them from the public sphere, and support men who cover up rape, that’s supporting actual violence against women. Not imaginary.

You started your career exploiting austerity. That was the deliberate stripping back of capacities to care from the benefits system, from our public services, that was women and children being exposed to actual violence and having their ability to leave dependence on a man removed. It killed women. When you used the profile you gained to ask that we erase gender equality from feminism, because gender was something you had decided you could opt out of that was bad enough. That you didn’t at all think erasing the women you exploited from feminism was a problem I wasn’t surprised. When you invented a marginalised identity for yourself like a badge to wear(genderqueer is not a thing sweety, it just means gender isn’t a wall around your life), and demanded we rewrite feminism to erase structural inequality women actually face, to suit your made up identity, that was not surprising. You have provided figurehead for a movement which has rebranded violent misogynist violence against women and campaigns to remove women from the public sphere, as feminism, and this has harmed women in a very real way.

The identity politics you sell is vacuous. Identity attached to nothing is narcissism and the identity politics you sell is attached to nothing but media careers and market orthodoxy.. And it’s over. We are not rebranding your misogyny or that of your friends as feminism. I am pleased you have decided gender doesn’t impact you and you can cast it off, women reporting to the DWP on their rape can’t do that. If you cannot recognise violence against women there are resources available to help you.  When you rebrand feminism as sex buyers rights, violent misogyny and erasure of structural inequality you harm women. That is never feminism.

You have been appropriating the work of a black legal scholar, Kimberle Crenshaw. She wrote a dissection of the way in which discrimination legislation created legal fictions of single axis discrimination denied women who experienced intersecting inequality legal protection. This critique was explicitly about the way in which reproductive labour and marginalisation created poverty, vulnerability to exploitation and violence. It was about structural inequality. I don’t quite know how but you and your friends interpreted this as another reason you got to terrorise women and police them. I appreciate that as a privileged young woman who will never experience inequality it did not seem important. It is. Intersectionality is new to you and another way in which you get to sanction the abuse of women, but it’s not new at all. It’s 2o years old, and already wound into social work theory and used in practice. It requires reflection on the power dynamics in which you are embedded, reflection on the way you use your power. Which you clearly are unable to do because of your personality type.  Its linked to the way benefits systems are structured and the way austerity rolled back equality and the coercive potential of state institutions, its directly linked to austerity. Am not sure what possessed you to think this important critique meant you friends could police women, maybe it was your narcissism. It needs to end and it is not justification for terrorising women and targeting the precious resources they need.

I am writing because the Salford Working Class Library is being threatened. Julie Bindel was invited to speak. She has been on the receiving end of a concerted 14 year campaign of abuse, harassment, that you have fully supported. Julie Bindel wrote an article your friends did not agree with 14 years ago.

If feminism is anything it is a verb, something you do, or an adjective describing the character of what you do. It is not a noun, it is not an identity for a social network you are a gateway to, and there is NO act designed to scare, intimidate, or abuse women that could be described as feminist. Julie’s body of work, including the article(which I dont agree with) has almost entirely been about fighting male violence and supporting women. Your record does not show a single act or article which supported a woman who was not you, and your record of supporting violent and abusive misogyny that harms women and children is becoming concerning. You need to speak to your friends.  You need to explain that women are perfectly capable of identifying abuse, we are perfectly capable of standing up to it, and we are immune to gaslighting. When you call it feminism, it is not. We live in a post truth age. In order to learn to recognise the gaslighting that Donald Trump is engaged in, we are going to start with you.

I don’t care if you write, I don’t care what you write, noone is asking you be no platformed, because chasing women out of the public sphere is misogyny. But you and your friends will not be rebranding feminism as violent misogyny any more. There is no chance of women’s reproductive capacities being erased from feminism. Trans women need feminism by virtue of the inequality they face and need no permission from anyone. That does not make violent misogyny anything but violent misogyny. It ends here.

You have already set women’s right back decades, and a backlash is now likely which will set back trans equality for decades, so someone needs to make you aware that this is over. Consider this note that warning.

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2 thoughts on “Dear Laurie Penny,

  1. You forgot to mention the non-stop toxic hate that Penny and her pals dole out to women who’ve been through the sex trade and hold a different view to what it is to be fucked by strangers for money than she does. I’m talking about women from broken homes and abusive childhoods who’ll never have the privilege she has and have every right to talk about what they lived in prostitution as abuse, not work. Penny doesn’t have any right to open her fucking mouth to these women, but has plenty enough stinking sense of entitlement to do so. Her attitude towards these women is sick, and so is she.

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    • I know. Madam Corvid writng in the new statesman that trafficking is a myth while they sell austerity that removed serices for litte girls being trafficked. Its disgusting violent misogyny. IT doesnt matter to these people we are talking about brutal violence. Its a game and they hate women.

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