#RadFem2012: Exposure doesn’t make the media your friends
Its possible that far too much has already been said on the issue of the RadFem conference to possibly contribute anything more. Too many things have been taken and twisted beyond recognition and too few have said anything that really adds to what is becoming a very entrenched shouting match (though here lies a brilliant exception). But I think the analysis of this situation has lacked one critical perspective: the role of the media.
First of all, let me say that I’m very much in favour of getting oppressed groups together, away from the presence of others, to discuss their feelings. As a male who often speaks too much in group contexts, I’m all too aware of the usefulness of removing myself from the debate. I have no problem with men being excluded from a women’s conference, nor straights being excluded from an LGBT/Queer gathering, nor Neuro-typical people being excluded from an Autists meeting. These are all useful categories, because they represent a group of people meeting to discuss shared oppression dealt to them.
My issue with the RadFem conference is pretty much entirely around the exclusion of transwomen. In fact, more specifically, its around the open invitation to transphobes to come share in oppression of others, namely transwomen and other trans and genderqueer folk. Forget discussions of intersectionality – this is an issue of when the oppressed become the oppressors of those even further below them.
So why do RadFems feel the strength to gather in this particular way? Why do they even matter within today’s political narrative, particularly given how a-typical they are of all the many great feminists active in Britain today? Or perhaps more importantly, why are these people often the ones who get the exposure where others don’t?
I think the media loves this particular form of feminism. I’m not saying that transphobic radical feminism is the media’s new way of thinking, but rather, it fits with the media narrative very nicely. RadFem’s are everything the media wants from feminism, namely a very clear-cut case of a pantomime-esque “Wicked Witch”.
Dear RadFems, the media are not your friends - they’re using you to hurt the wider feminist cause. Its like the media choosing to show a small riot over a large protest march because they feel they feel it better makes their point about protesters being violent nutcases. The media’s refusal to accept that Feminists have a genuine claim on justice, and are able to state it in an intellectually rigorous and genuinely loving way is what makes them choose you as the poster child of a much wider movement of which you are but a very insignificant part.
When people tell me feminists are man-haters, I tell them they’re wrong. I do this because I know just how few feminists are actually man-haters. In following this argument, I’ve ready some truly hurtful things. The Transphobia hurt most, as I cannot stand to see the disadvantaged abused (patronising though that may be). But some of the man-hating has been frankly jaw dropping. Its a terrible representation of modern Feminism and does nothing to promote either equality or liberation. In fact, it feels like a manifesto to replace Patriarchy with hate. I know this isn’t what what most Feminists want. Its sad that this is the message many people get, and that the RadFems are so happy to be represented in this way.