Thursday, 4 March 2010

Some things we have to do on our own...

So, when I announced on twitter today (@Jenni_Hill) that I was going to Saturday's Million Women Rise march in London, and asked who was coming with me, several men of my acquaintance complained that they wouldn't be going because men weren't allowed, and wasn't this awful?

Well, no. It's not awful. Not really.

To be fair on the men in question, they care very deeply about these issues and framed their arguments in the most respectful way, but the 'why are men excluded from this protest?' debate is one that comes up a lot on the forums and blogs I frequent, as both the Million Women Rise marches and the Reclaim the Night protests do exclude men.

From now on, when this debate comes up, I will be able to point people to this post. There are four things to understand:-

1. There are plenty of marches where men are allowed.

2. This is not one of them.

3. There are rape survivors/ex-prostitutes/victims of domestic abuse who do not feel comfortable at marches where men are allowed.

4. Those people deserve to be able to march on these issues. As do you. You need to look closely at point 1.

Lesser points:-

-Complaining that you're not invited to the party is not constructive. It doesn't make you an ally. If you care, get involved at the White Ribbon Campaign* or somewhere else, and don't attack the organisers who are trying to do something about these issues. You're derailing the important dialogues going on here by shouting "What about me?" when really, truly, and I say this in the kindest possible manner, it is not about you. If you are a privileged person, you are used to most things in life being about you. For a tongue-in-cheek discussion of what derailing is, go here: Derailing for Dummies, I really recommend it. For discussion from my mate Laurie Penny of why it's not about you, go here.

- How often do you see women come together in spaces which are mainly full of women and march on something, and get angry about something? You don't. The visual of many, many women walking down these public streets and protesting will be a strong one. Strong enough to make some men angry, shout abuse and spit at us, in some cases.

- Don't argue that the support of men will somehow add legitimacy to the issue, or that 'sexists will listen to men' because that's just wrong-headed and therein lies madness or, alternatively, this onion article (wherein 53-year-old management consultant Peter "Buck" McGowan uses the old boy's network to 'fix' feminism).

- We're not 'Reclaiming the Night' if you're with us. I may feel safer walking down Tooting Bec road at 3am if I've got my six-foot boyfriend with me, but that is Not How Things Should Be.

It's about NOT having to walk down the road arm in arm with a man - please try to understand that. Some things we want to do on our own. This is one of them.

- Jen

*The White Ribbon Campaign is one of those places that makes me want to stand up on a high place and shout "FUCK YEAH!" and maybe wave my fists in the air for a bit. Seriously. Go check it out. What are you still doing here?


  1. I'm one of the complainers :)

    I do see the good of having a women-only march. It's unfortunate that it hits one of my buttons at not being able to help at places like rape crisis centres, but I understand the very good reasons for that too.

    I just wish there were more good alternatives for men to help with the MWR movement. I don't like the White Ribbon campaign at all, and must have just missed something important about it... the pledge seems designed to be both useless by definition and antagonistic to non-violent men. But further browsing on their site led to a lot of good stuff too: the aim to "take more responsibility for reducing the level of violence against women."

    That's good. "Blowing the whistle" on it when you see it is GOOD. Because it's about action against the problem, not a personal pledge by those who were never the problem.

    Think I just need to sit down and eat some chocolate, I seem to have gone into full-on rant mode when I don't actually have an issue with 90% of the stuff around the march :)

  2. Hey, really hope you didn't feel I was one of the ones complaining!

    I totally understand where you're coming from. The relationship between wanting to show solidarity and different forms of equality campaigns is a complex one. The gut reaction of a socialist is to stand in solidarity but as you outline, sometimes standing to one side is the best way to do that.

    I do think some of the phrasing on the MWR website could be improved though. Not because 'it's about me' but because 'to Prevail one must Persuade'*. I think some of the text on the site fails to articulate the issues as eloquently or effectively as both you and Laurie do.

    I really hope none of this sounds patronising as I'll be mortified if it does! Since becoming friends I've actually thought a lot more about feminism than I used to which is a good thing. Given my workplace and upbringing it's never been much of an issue and whilst I doubt I've ever been chauvinist I'm much more alert to subtleties of prejudice that I used to be which in turn means I'm better placed to challenge them.


    *The provenance of the inspiration for that soundbite is actually very dodgy, I'll explain sometime. Suffice it to say, it would make the originators cartwheel in their graves to hear lefties subvert their words! ; )

  3. I particularly agree on the "We're not 'Reclaiming the Night' if you're with us. I may feel safer walking down Tooting Bec road at 3am if I've got my six-foot boyfriend with me, but that is Not How Things Should Be"

    First thing my dad said about Mark was that he wouldn't worry about me walking the streets at night anymore! But that's the point, we don't/shouldn't need bodyguards for day to day being outside...

  4. There's a page on their site regarding menu who want to help:

  5. Of course, that should have been 'There's a page on their site regarding men who want to help'. Damn geekfingers.