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.
-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.
*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?