My feminism will reject misogynistic screeds, or it will be bullshit

A number of feminist writers, myself included, were attacked and defamed online (yet again) in an abhorrently hateful and misogynist diatribe today. Many women spoke out, naming the vitriolic words as sexist, ad hominem attacks, professional jealousy, and manipulation.

We were called “media whores” and “turds” who had no ethics, humanity, or compassion (an ironic accusation when stated within a completely unethical post maligning female writers and journalists, dehumanizing them, and calling them a bunch of hateful, misogynist names). We were accused of selling out and of the crime of *gasp* being paid for some our work.

The author writes:

“I hate you all Glosswitches, booblediboops [sic], Laurie Pennys, Louise Penningtons, Julie Bindels, Megan Murphys [sic], Michelle Goldbergs and your ilk. The B Classes of white feminism fighting tooth and nail for a place at the table. At our expense. With your writing commissions, the coins tossed in your direction by the men who own the media you so desperately want to be part of.”

Not all of the women she lists are paid writers or journalists, for starters — and the author seems to have a completely deluded understanding of how much money one makes doing freelance writing (hint: not very much!). Beyond that, it is pretty appalling to attack women for being paid for their work. Is that not the very opposite of what we are fighting for? Are we all independently wealthy in the feminist movement and don’t need to work? Are progressives now fighting for writers and journalists to work for free, despite the fact that they are, for the most part, ridiculously underpaid to begin with? As women, should we find someone else to support us in order to avoid being accused of “selling out” by being paid a pittance for our writing?

When Sarah Kendzior, who has written at length about the unethical practice of hiring unpaid interns (and who has a weekly column which she is paid for — and that’s OK!), supports an abhorrently misogynist piece that attacks women for daring to have and publish opinions, ideas, and arguments publicly, and to (sometimes) be (minimally) compensated for the work they do, it is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to call a vicious, unfounded, hateful, slanderous attack, “a powerful critique.” It is unacceptable for progressive and/or feminist writers to encourage and celebrate this kind of behaviour. No excuses.

Does getting paid to write only count as “selling out” or “whoring” if the writer says things we don’t agree with? Or is it just if the writers are women? What are the rules, here?

To be clear (though it shouldn’t have to be said), this is not about “righteous anger” nor is it about people “speaking out” nor is it about “critique.” There is NO critique here. There are no politics here. These are sexist, unethical, manipulative attacks and I am sick to death of fellow progressives or feminists defending them. This is indefensible.

When, all in one breath, one states their deep hatred towards women, calling them “pieces of shit” and “whores,” and in the next assures us that, no, they don’t hate the abusive white man who ripped apart the feminist community — causing us us all to viciously attack our sisters in an effort to decide which terrible feminist was most to blame for the abusive, sociopathic, manipulative behaviour of a man for fuck’s sake and tear her from limb to limb (as a means, let’s not forget, to draw attention away from ourselves, throwing meat to the wolves in the hope we manage to avoid attack ourselves)  — the illusion that this kind of attack is politically justifiable or is happening in the name of progress, feminism, or freedom, ceases to be credible.

“Contrary to popular belief, I do not hate Hugo Schwyzer, though. I feel deeply sad for him. Sad at the wasted potential of a man who obviously had the capacity to write and communicate and network and connect with people but became haunted by his own mental health issues and addictions. But I do not hate him. Sure, addicts make a choice to act on their addictions but how many choices do we have when there is a crowd that benefits from enabling the addict? What choices are out there when so many are fighting for the coins thrown at them to enable the addict, to give him rope, to let him hang, to push him further for page clicks and outrage. Like Jessica Coen, among many others, did for him. His actions are his alone but there is a point when people marred by mental health are not always in control of those actions. I can empathize with that. I would never be his friend. I would never share a drink with him. I don’t want him writing about anything that implies getting coins at our expense like his enablers do. But I do not wish him bad. If anything, I hope he can find peace.”

Sure, he’s only human — the rest of us “whores” deserve nothing but hate and vitriol.

I am tired of this shit. And I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed that this is what people see when they look at feminist “discourse” online — this woman-hating nightmare. This toxic pit of mean girls-style screed — disagreement used as defense for silencing and verbal abuse. I am appalled that fellow journalists and progressives would support this behaviour and I am amazed to the point of almost finding it funny that people are still desperately trying to frame this behaviour as purposeful or political in any way.

And if people are supporting this behaviour out of fear, it’s time to look at that. Because if you are afraid and staying silent out of fear, something is wrong. Because, as the ever-on point Glosswitch wrote, “my feminism is not about being afraid.” Because you know who rules and controls and silences women through fear? Abusive men. Met any? Recognize that feeling of walking on eggshells, never quite sure when you will become the target of an attack? Yeah. That’s what the patriarchy does. It forces us to live in fear and stay silent because of it. It teaches us to take up as little space as possible in the hope that we will go unnoticed and, therefore, safe from attack. This shouldn’t be the goal or outcome of feminism.

Both Glosswitch and I have said it before, and who knows how many more times and how many more of us will need to say it again, but if your activism is focused on vicious, concerted efforts to silence women, you’re not doing feminism, you’re doing misogyny. And I promise you — I fucking guarantee you this — supporting bullies won’t protect you. It will not save you from being bullied yourself. Because some day you’ll step out of line and become the target yourself.

And if people are supporting this behaviour out of professional jealousy they may want to think about that as well. If you had a writing job would it be ok for others to attack you in this way? Simply for having a job? (And, friendly reminder, I don’t have a writing job — but I certainly don’t hate women who do. And I certainly would like to HAVE A FUCKING JOB. And I certainly will not be ashamed of that. I am not making anything resembling a living from freelance writing. I am not making anything resembling a decent living or stable income, period. And I would like to be able to pay my fucking rent. Does that make me a whore and a turd?) Would you be a sellout and a “whore” because you were paid for your work? Would you deserve the abuse hurled at you? Or would you be safe, somehow? Would you be the magical unicorn woman who writes about feminism — who writes that which is unpopular — who challenges the status quo — and isn’t subjected to abuse and isn’t made to believe you didn’t deserve to either speak or be compensated for your work? I think you know the answer to that one…

Is there nothing ironic in demanding that women work for free? Lest they be lambasted? Because women’s work remains underpaid or unpaid today, for the record. And it is unacceptable to expect women to produce work for free because they are feminist. We should be advocating for our sisters to be paid for the work they do. Not tearing them apart for scraping by in what is an extremely difficult, unstable, and unlucrative industry.

Time to stop fooling yourselves. This is not politics. This is a sick, sexist, joke.

This is not politics, no. This, in the words of Flavia Dzodan herself, is bullshit.


*UPDATE, 02/23/2014:

(The author of this attack, for the record, is not someone I can recall having ever engaged with, nor have I written a single thing directly about her (it was brought to my attention, today, that I referenced an article of hers in a post I wrote back in 2012, though the post was not “about” her, per se, nor was it an attack on her, at all), despite the fact that some are defending this behaviour with more lies about how we “targeted” her, and she is simply responding to that. Never. Never have I “targeted” her or attacked her, spoken ill of her, or so much as addressed her on Twitter. My perspective on her work was that, while I may not agree with it, she was doing her thing and I was doing mine. No need to attack her or try to silence her. Saying “what did you think would happen” strikes me as a rather dishonest attempt to defend verbally abusive, misogynist behaviour à la “you had it coming.”)

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.