Complacent and complicit: the tale of Labour and its women

No flowing, roundabout introduction to see here. It’s time to be blunt.

It’s time to wake up and start taking action on the Labour Party’s sexism problem.

It’s time we stopped just calling it out and thinking that’s enough anymore. Something desperately needs to be done. 

Our women MPs are fearing for their safety and for their children’s safety. Jess Phillips just had a locksmith around for six hours making her home safe, for god’s sake. Just two weeks ago she submitted 96 pages of abuse to a Labour investigation. Women in our party now have to question what they post, pause for a moment before they tweet or post a status, and question whether it’s worth the torrent of abuse they anticipate. 

When I wrote this blog post back in May, oh boy, I hadn’t seen the half of our sexism problem.

Anecdote: on my last day of work, I had orchestrated an entire polling day, pretty much single handedly. I offered people cups of tea late in the day, at pretty much the first opportunity I had to “relax” and without thinking looked at the kettle and went “oh I haven’t even used this today, I don’t even know how to switch it on”. To which the man I had kindly offered to make tea for goes “A woman who can’t use a kettle…you don’t get many of those” I looked at him with disdain. ”Oh don’t spit in my tea, love…I’m old Labour me”

YES. We have people in our party who are that backward. We have men in our party who seek to undermine the achievements and intelligence of women on the basis of their tea making abilities apparently.

On an even more sinister note, on several occasions I had to ask a male colleague to come to some of my campaign sessions with me because I was that creeped out by a volunteer. It’s not ok. It’s so very not ok.

This isn’t a time for any sort of token gesture. We can’t afford to be complacent anymore. For now it’s threats, but whose to say those threats are empty, who is to say that one of these women won’t be raped or murdered? Would it really take that to happen for us to start taking action on this? We must take many lessons from the murder of Jo Cox, and one of those is that our MPs are actually a lot less safe than we previously presumed them to be. The party needs to get drastic about this. This isn’t me being hysterical. Serious action needs to be taken and fast.

A brief comment about Jo Cox, because I don’t want to in any way use her death simply to prove my own points, but equally I believe it’s something we need to learn from. I really thought Jo’s death would be a turning point in the Labour Party’s culture. A woman of our party was murdered, a woman who in life, sought to remind us that we have more in common than that which divides us. Yet members of our party continue to unleash sexist, misogynistic, divisive abuse at women. If the death of one of our most dedicated, caring and passionate MPs doesn’t cause some of our membership to stop and think about how we have more in common before they post that tweet or Facebook comment, what on earth will?

Some ideas on where to go from here:

1. We need structures in place in every region of the country that make reporting and dealing with sexism and misogyny easier. We need to make sure that women are aware of what structures are in place, so that as soon as they do experience any sexism or misogyny, they know where to go. 

2. We need to start creating a culture of reporting rather than tolerating sexism in the party. We shouldn’t let women tell their tales of sexism and simply go “oh that’s awful”. We need to start changing our response to “That’s awful. Report it to compliance/(some other structure we might create).”

3. We need to encourage a culture where men aren’t allowed to justify their actions with “I’m old Labour me” (or similar, or just by being men) and it’s all brushed off with a laugh. Men who consistently make sexist remarks have no place in our party and as far as I’m concerned, they should face expulsion. 

4. We also need to come together and put pressure on social media sites like Twitter to take a serious stand against misogyny and sexism. Jess Phillips should not have to spend hours of her life blocking trolls. Make some algorithms. Tackle trolling. Or it’s only going to get worse.

We need to start ensuring women feel comfortable and valued in their own party. We need to do that because every woman deserves that, as a human being. But we also need to do that because until we resolve our own issues surrounding women, we cannot hope to be a credible opposition and one day, government if we cannot be champions for women. It’s all well and good calling yourself the party of social justice, but if your idea of social justice does not include women in our own party, what’s the point?

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Does Yes always mean Yes?

**CW: rape, sexual harassment, non-consent****

So, yesterday was the last day of the 16 days of Action against Violence Against Women, and so I wanted to chat about consent.

Heterosexual relationships in a patriarchal society can be very gendered. I speak as a woman in this post, and my ideas of consent cannot be separated from my gender identity. Men are raped. Men must also consent. The things I state apply to them also, but just bear in mind that this is a woman’s perspective.

I doubt you will meet many women at University who have never felt pressured, coerced or obligated to have sex in a situation when they didn’t particularly want to. In fact, studies definitely seem to back this sad fact up as well.

There is a lot of great basic education on consent: making sure the person you’re with seems like they are enjoying what they are doing, getting verbal consent, checking for non-verbal cues. However, there is less education in the more subtle ways consent can be differentiated from non-consent. And so, paradoxically, to answer the question: What is Consent? I want to go through some of the things that are not consent.

1. Only a Yes

If you pressure someone into saying yes, this is not consent. A yes must be given freely, of a person’s own accord, and should not be something they seem a bit unsure or sceptical about giving.

2. Lying to get someone into a vulnerable position

This is especially true for casual hook ups. Telling someone you just want to kiss/cuddle and then trying to get them to have sex with you, when it was clearly not what they were after, again is not consent.

3. Making someone feel guilty for not having sex with you

Telling someone you’re “too turned on to stop” or that it’s “too tempting” not to have sex, or anything similar, does not result in consensual sex. If someone is having sex with you because they feel like they should or feel guilty about not doing so, this is not consent.

4. Carrying on when someone is reluctant, but you arouse them to a point they stop refusing

If someone is reluctant when you start foreplay with them, and consistently says/gives non-verbal cues that they don’t want to be engaging in it, but then you get to a point where they are very aroused and not resistant anymore, that is not consent. Also, sexual arousal does NOT equal consent.

5. Wearing someone down

If you’ve asked someone if they want to have sex with you/go home with you/do x, y, z with you and they say no several times, before giving a yes, probably because they’re exhausted of putting up a fight and just feel it’s easier to give in, that is not real consent.

DO: COMMUNICATE! Verbal communication is just about the best thing you can do to ensure consent, especially with a new partner where you have no idea about their non-verbal cues.

Consent is complicated, but it’s the most basic requirement for sex. It doesn’t help that we don’t have compulsory consent education in schools.And for something which really isn’t up for debate, that’s a blatant omission by curriculum organisers. I for one was not told that for someone to have sex with me, then I had to say “Yes, you can do that”. And to me, that might have seemed basic, but how can we go on presuming that everyone understands consent? I’m a feminist, and I have still had questions into my University years about consent. It’s time we start educating. Consent isn’t sexy. Consent is required.

Berating Women in 140 Characters: Why Won’t Trolls Leave Us Alone?

Without debate, the world would probably be an easier but perhaps a less exciting place. It’s completely within someone’s rights to disagree with your opinion, but what happens when the debate turns ugly? While social media can be a great thing, whether it’s being used to catch up old friends or keep up to date with the news. But its increased use has given way to a darker side whereby anonymous trolls are constantly on the lookout to attack anyone who dares voice an opinion.

These so-called trolls will attack anyone if it means that they can get a reaction, but the most high profile cases of online harassment in recent years have been against feminist campaigners, activists, and politicians. In 2013, whilst campaigning to have a woman featured on a banknote, activist and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez received an overwhelming number of threats, including one that told her to “fuck off and die”. Another one read, “I will find you and rape your nice ass”. For Caroline, the constant abuse understandably took over her life, yet Twitter refused to accept any responsibility for the malicious tweets. Later that year, two suspects appeared in court and were charged, but the effects of their words are unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry.

During the Labour leadership campaign earlier this year, trolls also attacked candidate Liz Kendall, with some suggesting that just because she isn’t married with children, she somehow wasn’t fit to lead the Labour Party. Other trolls went as far as to call her the anti-Christ. Whilst Kendall shook off the abuse, refusing the drop out of the race, she still recognised that the abuse she received was nothing less than vitriolic and appalling. Some may argue that people in the public eye should expect some degree of scrutiny, but when scrutiny includes rape and death threats, why should we be so passive towards it?

As I said, trolls don’t just attack people in the public eye; it’s all about engaging with as many people as possible and seeing if they can incite a reaction. For example, in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month, and after reading tweet upon tweet of hate directed against Muslims (because apparently it’s now fair to punish everyone for the actions of a few?) I tweeted: “these terrorist attacks are not a platform for you to promote your racism, Islamophobia, and anti-refugee stance”. What I thought was a fairly uncontroversial statement was quickly met not just with racism and Islamophobia (ironic), but also with a great deal of sexism directed towards me.

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The tweet that started the controversy…

How dare I, a woman, have an opinion on current affairs and social issues? Surely I should be spending my time in the kitchen, or gossiping about boys with my friends as we sit and watch the latest rom-com? Joking aside, the messages I got were nothing short of terrifying and frankly demeaning. One tweet read: “I’d like to see you make that same speech standing in a refugee camp wearing a miniskirt. They like miniskirts”. Another told me to “stop talking absolute nonsense little girl and open your eyes and ears”. Whilst it was great that people stepped in and defended me, I couldn’t help feeling that it was exactly what the trolls wanted; a bigger audience for their tweets, and potential future targets.

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A selection of the tweets I received

In the days following the attacks I received around 50 tweets from people telling me that I was wrong, all containing at least a hint of sexism and a dash of racism for good measure. Perhaps the thing that annoyed me the most was my reaction to it all. Here I was, reading rape threats and other disgusting comments, yet it had no effect on me at all. If someone had walked up to me in the street, screaming in my face that I was a “silly little dopey student girlie” (one of the less eloquent tweets I received), perhaps I would be genuinely offended. Yet when I was faced with the exact same thing on my laptop screen, all I could do was laugh. Maybe it was that I felt a little bit sorry for the people who choose to spend their days anonymously attacking strangers on the internet, but I also feel as though the normalisation of harassment against women played a role in the way I reacted.

One reason for my complete lack of emotion may have been that many of the trolls who replied to my tweets remained anonymous. It might sound stupid, but if I knew that they were real people, using real names, I might have been more inclined to challenge them on their views, hoping that there was a small chance that they might change their mind. But when there’s no way of identifying them, and no way of knowing if they actually hold these opinions or whether they’re just trying to get a reaction out of me, it seems kind of pointless to fight back.

Each time I asked the trolls why they were anonymous, I was met with responses like “Twitter affords anonymity”. But when anonymity is being used to harass people, surely social media giants should be doing more to protect the people it affects?

Social media is by no means a true representation of our actual society, but it does go a long way to demonstrate the ways in which women are silenced on an everyday basis, and how it’s become so normalised that we often fail to challenge it. Whether we’re being catcalled in the street or shot down when we speak out on feminism (or any issue for that matter), sometimes the fear of what will happen if we fight back stops us from doing just that. One thing is for sure; no matter how often it happens, being harassed online is never normal. Fighting back, both in defence of ourselves and in defence of others, might not stop the harassment altogether, but at least it sends a clear message that the trolls are in the wrong, not us.

Pride and Party Politics

kez jez

It was 5am, May 8th, and I was on the phone to my Mum. I was angry, upset, devastated. The thought of five more years of a Conservative government scared me. And so I did something about it, and joined the Labour Party.

I have always been a leftie. With a mother who swears mainly about David Cameron and a father who calls himself a Marxist, how couldn’t I be? As a Politics student, of course I am interested in the UK government. I study politics in order to hopefully one day be part of the change I want to see in the world. However, back in May I just didn’t know which Party I wanted to cast my vote for.

I considered the Greens, SNP and Labour. Green policies appealed to me; they were so radically left, but quite frankly far too idealistic and many not so well thought out. What is more, Natalie Bennett really did lack any of the qualities of a Prime Minister, not least to convey her passion and be inspiring, which through failed interviews and stuttered answers, did not come across.

The SNP was a party I seriously considered for a while, but I think even then I was sceptical of whether the left wing rhetoric they espoused would translate into left wing policy.

It was Labour that got my vote in the end, but it saddens me to say that this was not because I truly believed in their policies or found Ed Miliband inspiring. Rather, the goal with my vote was to keep Britain free from harsh Tory policy making, and the Labour Party were realistically the only viable option to potentially hold office. Still, I could not help feeling like I had cast a vote for the lesser of two evils.

This article could very easily be about Jeremy Corbyn, but it is not. I’m a far left social justice warrior feminist, of course Corbyn definitely gives me hope for a future I want. In many ways, it was Corbyn who inspired me to become more active in the Labour Party, because he represented so much of what I truly believe in. However, I can’t often help but feel distant from him as a leader. He is someone who is set in their views and often unwilling to compromise or put much effort in to uniting the party in the way it so desperately needs to be.

If I am really honest, his Shadow Cabinet appointments were alienating. Goals of socialism, such as equality, liberation, justice and fairness, are goals we simply cannot achieve without the input of oppressed groups in society. To see no women in positions of power is something you would expect from a right wing government, not the socialist paradise that Corbyn’s leadership is supposed to be. The Conservatives are putting more women in positions of real power than Labour, which is terribly disconcerting.

What really inspired me to take action beyond my vote and my Labour Party member card, was the Scottish Labour Party. I came away from the Scottish Labour Conference at the weekend feeling something I had never felt before for a political party: an immense feeling of pride and solidarity. This was a party I believed in. This was a party I wanted to see in government. This was a party who could deliver real change. Together, Ian Murray MP and Kezia Dugdale MSP carry the Scottish Labour Party with a vision that simply did not exist at Westminster on May 7th with Miliband. It is their commitment to true Social Democratic values and confidence in the abilities of the Labour Party that makes the party one I feel proud of.

Kez’s speech at Conference gave me chills. I had never felt so impassioned by a political speech before then, and I came away awestruck. This was a woman I could trust to do everything in her power to deliver Labour seats in Scottish Parliament next year. Unlike Jeremy, whose passion can sometimes err on the side of aggression, Kez was personable. She is someone I can identify with.

As a woman in the world of politics, seeing a woman as the Leader of a Party is inspiring in itself. The line “We don’t just need women in positions of power, we need Feminists in positions of influence” was bold and resonated with me. Kez went where very few politicians dare to go, identifying with a word that is often seen as dirty and tarnished. She committed herself to gender equality and the liberation of women within the realm of politics; a difficult and commendable stance to take.

As some one from a state school, I have seen first hand our failing education system. It upsets me that in UK general elections, education is never really on the agenda. It is even ignored in discourse by Corbyn. Like Kez said, “if there is a silver bullet to slay the monsters of poverty, inequality and ignorance, then it is education”, yet we never seem to talk about it in politics. This is a woman who is putting the most important tool available to humanity back on the agenda. And not because it is politically sound, because it clearly is not ‘on trend’ in current affairs, but because she truly cares. That is the attitude of a woman I want to see leading not just the Scottish Labour Party, but the country.

In May, I voted to keep Tories out. The Scottish Labour conference inspired me to make the decision that, next year, I will be registering to vote up in Edinburgh for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections. When I voted for Miliband in the General Election in May, it was a vote in my mind for the lesser of two evils. When I use my two votes for Labour in Scotland next year, it will be a vote for values I am proud to believe in.

The Personal is the Political

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Self-centred bitch. That’s what I think of as the title for this article; slightly ironically admittedly. Still, the very fact that I think that writing an article about putting myself and my needs first makes my mind jump to this title is wholly problematic. The fact I worry about people’s thoughts and opinions when I write this and talk yet again, about female pleasure, makes me feel uncomfortable and angry. I think about the people who will think I hate men for expressing my feelings towards gender inequality and oppression and I think about not publishing this.

I’m sitting at a flat party. It’s getting to the time of the night where every one is suitably intoxicated to speak to one another without feeling awkward. And so I start speaking to a guy. It’s going OK, until I realise that I am probably speaking for about 15% of the time, whilst he speaks for about 85% of the time. For his 85%, I listen intently, nodding along, laughing and adding the odd “yes” or “I know what you mean”. For my 15%, I try and keep what I say to a minimum because it is becoming obvious that this guy doesn’t give a shit about what I am telling him. And I mean, who wouldn’t want to listen to me talking about the importance of social policy for underprivileged groups? Instead, his mind clearly wanders, as he is either looking around the room or at my exposed legs or my tits.

As I came to this slow realisation, I begin to distance myself. Making an excuse to leave and chatting to other people, whilst he still appears very much interested. And then it hits me…the wave of guilt. The guilt for rejecting someone who quite literally let me speak for 15% of a conversation, barely asked me anything about myself and didn’t even look at my face when speaking to me. I woke up in the morning, having left the party alone, and felt an overwhelming sense of relief and gladness that nothing had happened between us. But it got me thinking about what might have happened if I had invited him back and something had occurred between us, and the links started establishing themselves, the wires connecting in my head.

Despite considering myself a confident person, I can almost wholly predict that whatever sexual encounter might have happened between us, would have been on his terms and for his pleasure. If the sex we had was non-penetrative, I would feel that guilt that ‘pleasuring a woman takes too long’ and slowly become self conscious about this and stop enjoying it. If it was penetrative sex, then that sex would be over as soon as he came. And it is this conceptualisation of the ‘end of sex’ which is one of the most problematic things in a heterosexual encounter. In porn, films, literature, and real life, it is depicted and accepted generally that sex ends when a man ejaculates. Put quite simply, this epitomises the argument that women’s pleasure is secondary in the vast majority of depictions of sex. The female orgasm is an extra, a gift, a favour. It is not a right in the way that the male orgasm is. And no, it is not made ok just because men get “blue balls”. Do not try and tell me that the only reason we wait only for a man to orgasm is nothing to do with personal pleasure. Women do not leave sexual encounters where they haven’t reached orgasm feeling a-ok physically either. It is just that mentally, we have been taught to accept this as a norm. The female orgasm just isn’t that important, so we are taught.

This anecdote is no personal attack, but rather an example to illustrate feelings I have felt for years. It is about how gender affects what kind of sex you will get and the distribution of pleasure you will receive. It is about an unfair balance of power that exists not only in the streets, but in the sheets. It is about the fact that women feel inequalities even in one of the most natural of human activities. When we discuss women’s rights/liberation, we focus on what is public, when in many ways some of the most obvious inequalities and oppressions that exist, are things that remain taboo. The personal is the political. 

It’s about time we started talking about this and changing people’s attitudes towards sex. It’s time for real sex education for men and women that includes sex for pleasure of all genders, not just sex for reproduction. For, as long as women are having shitty sex, they will never be equal or liberated.

We Need to Talk about Sexual Harassment

There’s been a lot of confusion this morning as various news outlets reported that Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn was calling for the introduction of women-only carriages on trains. So, to clear this up, here is his actual statement on the matter:

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Note that calling for a discussion with women on the matter is not the same as blindly supporting it. It’s a shame that issues such as street harassment and sexual abuse are still being discussed today, but the reality is that many women still face harassment on a day to day basis. It’s great that Corbyn is (rightly) allowing women to lead the discussion on what needs to happen to ensure that they feel safe throughout the day, whether it be at home, at work, or on public transport. You can read the rest of Corbyn’s pledge to end street harassment here.

But why has the issue of women-only carriages caused so much debate? Initially, the measure may seem ideal; it’s seemingly put in place to ensure that women are able to travel without the possibility of encountering harassment by men. A nice thought, considering that 32% of women in London say that they’ve been verbally harassed on public transport; 19% have been victims of direct physical abuse.

The reality of the measure is however, much less appealing.

Saying that women should travel in single-sex carriages to avoid harassment is much the same as suggesting that women should dress conservatively in order to avoid being raped. The measure places responsibility in the hands of women. It perpetuates the idea that women should be on constant alert for any breaches to their safety.  It suggests that women who choose to travel with men on public transport are asking to be sexually assaulted, and that they have no one to blame but themselves when it happens.

It fails to place the blame on those who are carrying out this abuse and causing women to feel unsafe on their journeys in the first place. Even though there has been an increase in reports of sexual crime (up 20.8% in the 12 months leading up to March 2014), with the culture of victim-blaming, it’s no wonder that most harassment on public transport is thought to go unreported.

Aside from the idea that women shouldn’t have to be resigned to travelling in single-sex carriages, the measure is completely impractical in terms of funding and policing. The cost of running such carriages would be unjustifiable considering the little impact they would have. Additionally, policing such carriages would be virtually impossible, as cuts to forces means that there would simply be a shortfall of police presence on public transport. Sexual harassment doesn’t end when a woman steps off the train. Instead, it’s a daily occurrence in many women’s lives. From the train to the street, from their workplace to their homes, women are constantly wondering when the next assault will take place.

It’s a shame that the issue of sexual harassment is only covered by the media when a man draws attention to it, but its attention none the less. The fact that women don’t feel safe on public transport should be worrying enough, but the fact that some have suggested women-only carriages, regardless of the associated flaws, shows that we need to have a serious discussion on how best to end sexual harassment, not just on public transport, but everywhere.

I’ve got something to say (and apparently that’s a problem)

***Content Warning: violence, misogyny, sexual violence

everyday sexism article

I am not the first woman to be verbally insulted, abused and threatened on the internet, and as a realist, I doubt I will be the last. The Everyday Sexism Project was founded in 2012 by Laura Bates and has since documented thousands of experiences of sexism and misogyny directed towards women, many of which can take place on the internet. It is projects like these which continue to highlight the fact that women continue to be discriminated against on the basis of their gender, and I am exhausted of being told otherwise.

Feminism often operates within a safe space, a space where oppressed groups have their voices heard. Unfortunately, I have to accept that it would be pretty difficult to operate a safe space policy in the harsh world of politics. I am a realist. I know that a person needs thick skin if they are to enter such a world and I am trying to prepare myself for that world. However, I also believe that world needs reforming. It should not be the case that a woman must grow a thicker skin than a man. And it should not be the case that she has to pander to what is expected of her in a male dominated world. Not only do women have to overcome the same obstacles that men do, we must overcome those related to our gender on top of that. That is why it is unreasonable of men to tell us to have a thicker skin, because what they are really asking is that our skin is twice as thick as theirs. Quite frankly, if this is what I have to look forward to when I finish my degree in Politics, it fills me with apprehension.

For this article, I come back to a time on the Internet where I was subjected to a torrent of abuse on a scale I had never previously experienced. I was upset by the comments attacking me, but what really angered me was that many of these were based on my gender and not my arguments. The core issue is that what I say should not matter if it is an opinion which is not attacking someone else. Freedom of speech is held accountable by hate speech legislation. However, if what a person says is not hate speech, then they have a right to say it. The responses I, and other women receive for voicing an opinion should not belittle using vocabulary directly related to the fact that we are women.

I am tired of certain men defending other men. I am a woman who has been the victim of sexism and I can see it pretty clearly. For a man to tell me that another man isn’t sexist for his minor sexist insults, only to later develop into blatant misogyny is ignorance of what true sexism is. And it ignores the everyday sexism we face which little by little adds up to create a world where Feminism is still very much needed to fight for liberation and equality. Feminism is about equality of the sexes and liberation, but that statement shouldn’t be taken superficially. If you simply preach equality, but do nothing to deconstruct the institutions, language and structures in place at the core of gender oppression then to me when faced with them, that isn’t feminism. I am not saying to be feminist you have to necessarily be really active, but when you see something that is clearly gender oppression, do not excuse it, listen to the person who is telling you it is oppressive. Listen to women’s experiences. It will take you pretty far.

I’d like to take some of this article to dissect a few of the things that were said to me:

***Content Warning: violence, misogyny, sexual violence

 

‘You are sprouting utter tripe, my dear’

My dear can be used affectionately. It is synonymous with something like ‘darling’ in many contexts. However, it is often used by men as a tool to undermine women by patronising and belittling them, as it was in this case. David Cameron even used it in the House of Commons during the coalition government. Argue with me as a human being, do not undermine me because of my gender.

‘My intention wasn’t to patronise, therefore you shouldn’t be offended’

You should always be aware of your language, regardless of your gender. If someone calls you out on something, assess your language. If they tell you they are offended, it is most likely the case that you have said something out of line. Listen to people’s experiences. You are allowed to disagree with people, but just hear them out.

‘You wanna [sic] be Ms ******’

The presumption that women are often fuelled by some romantic obsession with men is a prevalent notion in today’s society. The idea that jealousy underpins our actions is actually pretty ancient which is why it’s laughable that it still exists today. Shakespeare writes some good stuff on this. I am a woman who has political views. I am also a woman who happens to have romantic ideals. The two do not overlap; they are separate.

The violent misogynistic threats I received were just vile, saying that:

‘She needs her head bashed in…..with some common sense’ and that if I couldn’t get over myself then I should ‘suck cock in the dead sea’

People often excuse these comments as a joke, but I can assure you that they are not. The fact that these comments were liked and supported also shows that they were not simply the isolated actions of an individual ‘troll’, but supported by other sexist/misogynist men.

All of this unravelled and spiralled out of control because of many interplaying factors. I raised my voice against something I thought was wrong. Some people disagreed with me. Some of those people then had no real argument and so they decided to attack me on the basis of my gender, rather than my points. Some just didn’t listen. Others simply jumped onto the thread as an excuse it appeared to verbally abuse me, be that because of my outspoken nature or in some cases, the bare fact that I am a woman. And finally, the core issue…

I come back to the issue of safe space. I believe it’s unrealistic to achieve the true aims of the safe spaces that I’m often a part of in the sphere of the Internet. I also know that many feminists strive for this goal and will disagree with me. However, women have a right to take part in debate and discussion without being the victim of sexist abuse, be this from a comment to a violent threat. We should be working to tackle this, rather than accepting blatant sexism and misogyny in the name of freedom of speech by acknowledging the legislation of hate speech also and its importance in protecting many oppressed groups including women. Responsibility must be taken by those involved to take a real stand against sexism and to prevent things getting out of hand. It was all well and good for the violent threats against me to be called out, but one candle can set a mansion alight. ‘Low level’ sexism also needs to be tackled head on, not only to prevent escalation, but for its own sake.

I recount and reflect on this experience not for pity, but as a plea to exercise awareness and caution in the language often directed at women.. I don’t expect to enter a world of politics where I won’t be shouted down from time to time or jeered or put down. I simply want to enter one where I can expect to meet these as frequently as my male counterparts do, and none of them to be on the basis of gender.

Listen to women, rather than dismissing them. Question the language that you and others use and when people call you out, listen to their justifications. One of the most powerful things is support; to be supported and to support others is vital when it comes to tackling sexism. To the strangers and friends who support me when I speak out against injustice, I am grateful. Calling out little things, liking a comment, complimenting a friend, sharing an article, signing a petition. These are all little things we can do on the internet to support each other in the cause for gender equality.