On Saturday 10th March, my friend Tahera and I attended the Million Women Rise march in London. In its eleventh year, the annual march calls for an end to all forms of male violence against women and girls. While the profile of workplace sexual harassment has taken the spotlight in the past few months, male violence against women and girls takes many insidious forms and not just that of an overweight movie mogul in a dressing gown.
Statistics taken from http://www.millionwomenrise.com on violence against women in the UK:
- One woman in four will experience domestic violence at some point in her life.
- Domestic violence has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police).
- Two women are murdered every week by their partner or ex-partner.
- One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.
- One woman in four will experience sexual assault as an adult.
- Only 5% of rapes reported to the police result in the perpetrator being convicted in court.
- Women are more worried about rape than any other crime.
- 250 cases of forced marriage are reported each year.
- Up to 1,420 women per year are trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation.
- One woman a month is murdered in the name of ‘so called’ honour.
- Nearly 90% of local authorities do not have a rape crisis centre.
- More than 20,000 girls could be at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK.
I find these events leave me drained. It is incredibly empowering to be surrounded by people fighting the same fight; women united by their need for a fairer, more equal society but if I spend too long thinking about why we need these events, I get sad and want to take to my bed with a packet of custard creams. Instead, I remind myself, I must harness my anger! Angry people get shit done. Sad people end up sitting in a bed full of crumbs being asked by Netflix if they’re still watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
This weekend was no different. Armed with our double-sided signs (displaying the signs that my Mighty Girls had made me), we marched from Oxford Street to Trafalgar Square.
You know that feeling when you’re talking to someone but really all you’re thinking about is whether you’ve left the house in your slippers and you’re too scared to look down and appear rude? And when you finally tune back in, they’re saying something sexist/racist/homophobic/fucking dreadful and you don’t know how it happened and what if they think you agree with them and what if other people think you agree with them and despite them being an awful human being, you can’t bring yourself to tell them to do one as you’ve been smiling benignly the whole fucking time? This happened to us on Saturday but instead of one person being verbally oppressive, it was a whole group of them with a megaphone and they had signs. And we were standing next to them!
Tahera and I had found ourselves among a group of trans exclusionary feminists. I have seen them in action online before and I have always found it disappointing when I have found myself following someone on social media who denies an already massively oppressed group of society their basic human rights. I started to feel sick and I wanted to cry. There were great big signs mocking the trans experience and spiteful anti-trans chanting into a megaphone. All I could think was, “Is this feminism?”
I don’t know if I’ve made it clear in previous posts but I suffer from crippling imposter syndrome in every single area of my life. I started questioning myself and whether I’d been getting feminism wrong for all these years and if these women were getting it right, I’m not sure I wanted to be part of it because it just felt so awful and wrong. We left the rally in Trafalgar Square early and discussed it over coffee. What made their hate-filled ranting any better than a religious/political zealot standing on a street corner denying a group of people their basic human rights?
If trans women cannot find a place in modern feminism, then I don’t think I want a place in it either. According to recent Stonewall research, 41% of trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the 12 months leading up to the 2017 report. 28% of trans people surveyed in a relationship in the previous year had faced domestic abuse from a partner. 25% have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. 40% adjust the way they dress because they fear discrimination or harassment and this number increases significantly to 52% of non-binary people. (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/lgbt-in-britain-trans.pdf)
As cis women, surely we can empathise and be enraged with this level of abuse, harassment and injustice? Surely we know what it’s like to live in fear of having our own gender weaponised against us on a daily basis? Surely we understand what it’s like to be oppressed by a patriarchal system designed to benefit rich, white men?
I don’t want to get into gender identity politics because I don’t believe anyone’s human rights, much less their existence, should be up for politicisation. All I know is that when I finally get my seat at the table, I’m bringing extra chairs and making room for all of my sisters not just my cisters.