Feminism. At some point along the way, many of us seem to have convinced ourselves that the ideal feminist utopia was a universal ideal; that it was one we all agreed on. For those who vehemently support a woman’s right to choose prostitution, this meant that feminists who provided in depth critiques of prostitution could be likened to the devil, their feminist badges revoked as they were kicked out of Eden. For those who unwaveringly support a person’s right to self-identify with whatever gender they choose, this meant that those feminists who engage in discourse around gender were walking a dangerous line which meant every word that followed them thereafter could easily be discredited with ‘TERF’. I’ve seen many feminists thrown under the bus this way, and it is getting – quite rightly – fucking exhausting.
But more than exhausting, the attitude that accompanies any campaigning by these women – labelled bad feminists by the liberal feminist community – is one that involves so much work of importance being discredited, ignored, and even boycotted. I saw it when I campaigned for a change in how Twitter handled the reporting of abuse, with a certain corner of the internet seeking out evidence that I was a bad feminist in order to discredit my work. And of even more concern is that I’m now seeing this logic applied to Louise Pennington’s latest campaign – a campaign which aims to protect the rights of women who are reporting a rape to the police. A campaign that should be unanimously supported by those who claim to have the best interests of women at heart.
The critics of Pennington, however, are those guilty of rarely listening to what is truly being said, those guilty of being selective in what they read about an individual, and those guilty of putting their personal feelings about an individual above the need to prevent laws which are set to harm victims of rape and sexual assault.
This post isn’t written with the intention of changing the minds of these individuals when it comes to their perception of Pennington. However, I do urge those who refuse to sign a petition they would otherwise sign, on the basis that it has been created by someone with whom they disagree on other points, to take a moment to reconsider the implications of their decisions. The message one sends out in these instances is one that is heard loud and clear by both your supporters and the feminist community. It’s one that echoes through to those who would otherwise attack the feminist community at any available opportunity. It’s a message that the feminist community can be divided, and at a time when we need to unite in order to protect the rights of women, a wedge can be driven between us.
Feminism was never about having to approve of everything each and every feminist says. It was never about the need to agree on every topic. However, what has always mattered is that we unite on protecting the rights of women, even if that means putting personal dislikes – or in some cases, an opposition to other political stances – to one side.