The fight goes on (and on)

Hundreds protest my talk at the Toronto Public Library in October 2019 (Photo by Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

As most of you now know, this site and Feminist Current’s Twitter account were hacked on Tuesday, and my personal information (home address and phone number) was posted online (also known as doxxing). With the help of some amazing people who know much, much more than I about such matters, Feminist Current has been saved — we are back online and more secure than ever. The whole ordeal was incredibly stressful, and will likely continue to be, with regard to my own personal safety. Future attacks on the site are inevitable, and have happened numerous times in the past, though hopefully we’ve beefed up security enough to prevent this kind of interference in the future.

This is, of course, nothing new. Feminist Current has been targeted many times over the years by misogynists and trans activists who hate everything the site stands for or who simply hate me. And there is no shortage of people who hate me… Indeed, the specific and acute hatred directed at me has well outgrown Feminist Current. I am the primary target of vitriol and libel in Canada, as far as the gender identity debate goes. Activists and the media alike enjoy promoting the idea that I am a lone nutjob, spreading dangerous ideas about biology and women, though this has become more difficult of late, as more Canadian women are rising up and going public with their concerns.

The reason I am a target is because I come from the left and have long identified as a feminist (though I have begun to distance myself from such labels, preferring free thought and to identify myself as someone who advocates for women’s rights, so as to wrest myself from ideological conformity and limitations on my free speech and independent thought). In other words, I don’t fit the narrative preferred and pushed by the Canadian media, “progressive” politicians, the left, and trans activists. The narrative being that only right wing, Christian bigots who think gay people are bad and women belong in the home have a problem with gender identity legislation. For the record, I don’t have a problem with right wing or Christian people, anymore than I do anyone else — I assess people based on their ethics, behaviour, actions, integrity, ideas, and willingness to converse and engage with respect, not based on broad labels assigned by others. But this is an easy way for leftists to dismiss detractors, and those around them fall in line — ooooh not them! They’ll give us Jesus cooties!

Unfortunately for these people I have never been religious, right wing, or anti-gay. I am in fact a very liberal person who spent the vast majority of my life identifying as a socialist and a feminist. I was one of them, in other words — the leftist cabal — but dared think for myself and speak the truth about those thoughts, and they can’t handle a cult escapee, disrupting their one-dimensional worldview, so I had to be destroyed.

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I started this website in 2012, after a falling out amongst the feminist media collective I was working with at the time. (I will never work with a collective again — it is possibly the most torturous, phony, exhausting, counterproductive organizational model, if indeed you wish to actually accomplish anything and avoid endless, tedious, power struggles and drama that keep everyone trapped in meetings, rather than producing content or moving forward. The notion that leaders, hierarchies, and decision-makers are unnecessary and that consensus amongst a range of individuals — some much less experienced and knowledgeable than others, some engaged in power games, some invested in goals unrelated to the organization or group’s goals, some steeped in their own bitterness or unaddressed personal problems/trauma, projected at others — is possible or the best way to organize is ridiculous and unrealistic.) The fallout happened, naturally, over a series of radio interviews we were producing to cover the “trans debate.”

Back then, I thought I was undecided on the “trans” issue, but the people I chose to interview were Sheila Jeffreys and Lee Lakeman, so it seems I really wasn’t so undecided. I think I had not yet sufficiently explored the conflict and issues at hand, so felt unequipped to take a firm position, despite my leanings toward reality and support for women-only space. Plus, at that time there was no legislation or policy threatening to destroy women’s sex-based rights, so I felt less pressed about the matter. I try not speak out about issues if I haven’t fully sorted out my arguments, because I am a public person and a writer, and need to be equipped to defend what I say. So I wanted to be sure, when I did take a position on gender identity, that there were no holes in my arguments, and that I could respond to criticism and questioning (something trans activists might consider doing, themselves). 

After airing the interviews on Vancouver Co-Op Radio, some women in the collective chickened out and determined that the interviews I had done in support of women-only space and critical of gender identity should not be podcasted, on account of the views expressed being too “controversial.” I was angry about this, of course, because Sheila and Lee were making important, intelligent arguments, and because I genuinely wanted to cover this issue, not hide from controversy. Due to my disagreement and protest of this decision, I was promptly locked out of all accounts and shut out of this very feminist, very sisterly, completely consensus-based, democratically-run collective.

This was all for the best in the end, as the radio show we were doing was small potatoes (and incredibly limiting, in terms of reach, creativity, and scope, thanks to the restrictive nature of collectives and the personalities involved) and this conflict prompted my founding Feminist Current, the website that remains the only feminist website of this kind in Canada, despite the fact the Canadian media and left pretend it doesn’t exist or is some kind of hate site.

This site and my work have never been uncontroversial. From the moment I started writing about feminism, back in 2011 or so, I was under attack from progressives and mainstream, third wave feminists, due to my criticisms of Slutwalk, pornography, BDSM, and prostitution. Sex work advocates tried to have me fired way back in 2015, claiming I was all the things they claim the to-be-cancelled are: racist, whorephobic, transphobic, anti-immigrant, bigoted, yada yada yada. This was not the first attack on me, but it was the biggest one I’d experienced to date (worse attacks were to come, of course), and it almost caused me a break down. It was incredibly stressful, in part because I wasn’t, at the time, permitted to talk about what was going on publicly, defend myself, or acknowledge or thank my many supporters around the world — the women who spoke up and fought on my behalf. I was told it was my responsibility to protect my employer (rabble.ca), so I felt completely isolated and silenced while I waited for the attacks on me to end, which they did not, but rather ramped up until finally my employer was forced to address the petition and demands to have me fired.

After combing through everything I’d ever produced or written for rabble.ca, I was found innocent, and permitted to keep my job, though my co-workers ostracized me, trashed me, engaged in passive aggressive bullying, and essentially blamed me for their discomfort, as their leftist allies had made them targets, once they realized they couldn’t get to me — guilty by association. They made it practically impossible for me to work, reneged on promises and plans for my role in the organization, columns I was to write, etc. It was very unpleasant, and left me hurt and angry in a way I did not recover from for years afterward. These were people who had not just been co-workers, but friends — who simply cut me out, and decided to hate me, because of the actions of their social circles and political allies.

Not long after all this happened, I dared insist women were human, not menstruators, in an article that was published, then removed, without conversation or explanation. After sending numerous emails requesting an explanation as to why I was censored, I was told by a fellow editor that my article “contained transphobic language and violated our journalistic policy,” though was given no specifics as to which of my words were “transphobic.” I scoured the journalistic policy many times over, finding nothing that specified it was a violation of policy to say that only women menstruate or give birth. The publisher followed up with me, saying my article was “discriminatory towards transmen,” further explaining:

“It is unfortunate that you do not see the problems around the erasure of trans male identity in the piece. In our analysis, the piece denies the gendered identity of trans men who menstruate by implying that if a person has ovaries and a uterus, they are by virtue of those biological markers, a woman. This is an essentializing argument which reduces women’s identity down to biology. In this discussion of trans men, when gender gets reduced to biology it dismisses the gender identification of trans people and dictates what that identity should be. The blog pits women’s rights against trans rights and trans identity is dehumanized, dismissed and erased in the process. This is tantamount to the expression of transphobic ideas, which violates our journalistic policy. This is why the piece was unpublished.”

I quit in protest.

That was 2016, the year Bill C-16, Canada’s gender identity legislation was proposed by the federal Liberal party. Luckily I was no longer beholden to lefty media, and was truly independent, free to say and write truthfully about gender identity. I mean, I would have done it anyway, but I would have been pressured not to, made to feel as though I was tarnishing the reputations of my co-workers and the Canadian left, and certainly been fired. I have always said independence is a blessing, despite the insecurity attached. I chose it and continue to choose it for a reason. That year, I was the only person in Canada to publish an article in mainstream media criticizing Bill C-16 from a feminist perspective. As a result, I was asked to testify against the bill at the Senate.

The bill passed regardless of the very rational concerns expressed by a few brave Canadians, as expected, but at least it is on record that some of us pushed back.

Since then, I have been roundly vilified, threatened, harassed, libeled, ostracized, screamed at, blackballed, abandoned by friends, censored, banned from social media, and more. Every event I have done has been protested, and many of the venues subject to threats. I am subject to death threats almost every time I speak about this in Canada. I have private security at these events for a reason, and the reason is not that I am a hyperbolic prima donna, despite what a few feminists have sneered at me.

I am writing all this out in part for the record — for history’s sake, because I tend to forget, and grow tired of repeating the details over and over again. But also, I suppose, to demonstrate that the recent attacks on Feminist Current and my doxxing is really nothing new. This all exists within a broader context of attacks on women’s free speech. The suffragists had to fight for their right to speak and be heard over a century ago, just as we do now. Challenging the accepted, status quo has never been risk-free, whether we are fighting the sex trade or gender identity ideology, and whether that status quo is dictated by the right or by the left. And if you are waiting around for things to get easy before you speak out, you are missing the point.

It is never easy to fight and it never will be easy. You will suffer consequences. You might lose friends, you might lose your job, you might get hurt, you might be threatened or censored or screamed at or libeled or worse. This has always been true and always will be true. What I have experienced is not the worst of what has been experienced by countless activists, journalists, and dissidents throughout history. But it is a struggle, and it can be scary, and it is a risk. I don’t do this because it is easy, I do it because it is the right thing to do, and because apparently I am missing the gene that allows me to stay quiet in the face of lies and attacks on our rights.

Rights are something we will always have to fight for — not because we are or will always be in a state of oppression, but because we can lose those rights at any given moment if we are not vigilant. And when faced with an attack on our rights and freedoms, know that the fight will not be comfortable or safe or risk-free. And that if you do wish to consider yourself among those on the “right side of history,” you will have to fight anyway.

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. 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 lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her very beautiful dog.