When the Working Class Movement Library — a small, volunteer-run library in Salford, England that holds records and stories of working class people’s lives and activism — announced they would be hosting feminist journalist Julie Bindel as a speaker, they were hit with a barrage of posts and messages attacking Bindel and the library.
As is the trend these days, hundreds of people — many of whom were middle class college students and young white men — began petitioning the library to no-platform Bindel, claiming her work and feminist analysis constituted bigotry. They even went so far as to go after the library’s funding and funders.
While some petitioners may have disagreed with Bindel’s analysis of gender and sexuality under patriarchy, that disagreement was not framed as such. Rather, Bindel was called “transphobic,” “biphobic,” “Islamophobic,” “hateful,” and “anti-sex work.” She was labelled a “TERF,” which is a newly-popular term used to smear any woman who argues against gender as either internal or an individual choice, speaks about or politicizes her female body, or understands that patriarchy oppresses women, as a class, based on sex.
A subset of the UK Green Party called “LGBTIQA+Greens” took particular issue with a tweet wherein Bindel joked that her pronouns were “Martini/whitewine/Negroni.”
Pronouns – Martini/whitewine/Negroni.
— Julie Bindel (@bindelj) January 4, 2017
Bindel, who has campaigned on behalf of female victims of male violence and for gay rights throughout her career, was even accused of “violence.” Some protestors shouted “fascist” and “Nazi” at Bindel, her partner, and some other women attending the talk, as they walked into the library. When Bindel explained that this was very offensive, as her partner’s family lost family in the Holocaust, the protestors laughed.
This kind of hyperbole, wherein political analysis is framed as “violence” or some form of “phobia” has become commonplace among anti-feminist queer activists who defend their attacks on, and efforts to, silence feminists based on a claimed interest in transgender rights. Any ideas or analyses that challenge theirs are labelled as hatred and literal violence. Indeed, when the Vancouver Women’s Library opened on February 3rd, founders and volunteers were accused of “acts of violence,” on account of their purported connection to Canada’s longest standing rape crisis shelter, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, and for including texts challenging the sex industry in their catalogue. These kinds of attacks on women are too-often paired with (actual) threats of violence and misogynist slurs.
What’s glaringly clear is that women who support female victims of male violence and who articulate a basic feminist analysis of gender, patriarchy, and male-centered sexuality are to be not only silenced, but destroyed.
With all this over-the-top protest, one would think Bindel planned to address some deeply controversial issue in her talk. Rather, she was scheduled to speak as part of LGTB History Month about her experiences growing up as a working class lesbian.
Many women around the world voiced their support for Bindel’s work, political analysis, and her right to speak about her experience as a marginalized person, as well as in support of the library. Regardless of your opinion on every single article Bindel has published, lesbians and working class women (and, of course, females as a whole) are still very much oppressed in this world — erased, abused, marginalized, and silenced. The notion that no-platforming and vilifying feminists who speak out against violence, systemic oppression, and abuse is ever a progressive or ethical response is dangerously wrongheaded.
Luckily, the Working Class Movement Library did not cave to the aggressive pressure to cancel Bindel’s talk. The event went on as planned on February 4th and Bindel spoke, as always, with wit, bravery, and brilliance.