The Twitterer known as @ (whom, I am sure, is a perfectly lovely, liberal-minded and fair individual) has been waging a Twitter war. Let his words speak for themselves:
Some of the most dangerous anti-trans radical feminists are holding a conference in Portland on May 24. FB info: https://t.co/dvZUPpa0a9— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
We really, really need to disrupt this event. I imagine there are some responses being organize, but I’m not sure what.— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
The conference is being held at a Quaker meeting space. Talking to the venue makes sense. This doesn’t line up with their values at all.— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
You’re right. I want people who advocate violence against trans people to not have a voice. Ever. @fusillisara— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
Rad Fems are the 9/11 Truthers of feminism. Shitty analysis, a strong undercurrent of bigotry, and impossible to argue with.— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
I’m really not even interested in fighting with TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists). I’ve got better shit to do. I’m not gonna sit— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
back while they try to bring their bigotry to my backyard, though.— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
I’d rather just ignore them. They’re so entrenched in their own shit. I’d rather reach the people they’re trying to reach.— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
WTF “@TerrorizerMir: I wonder if this stout fellow is unbigoted enough to take a transwomen home to mum and say ‘meet my girlfriend’?”— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
Even while spewing all this shit, TERFs will say they don’t have a transphobia problem.— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
Sumtimes I can’t distinguish btwn rad fems who’re genuinely confused about why rad fem transphobia is wrong and those who’re willful bigots.— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
Like, some people are new to the radical feminism world and might not know about the shittier elements.— sugar hiccup (@modesofsnuggle)
Woah! Let’s stop there. He’s pretty pissed. What could be doing this? Well, I’m afraid much of this is gonna be a copy and paste from the event on Facebook and then I’m going to give you my thoughts on this, as a transwoman.
Here’s the mission statement of this event, scheduled for 9am on May 24 2014:
“Hey social justice activists!
Are internet flamewars bumming you out?
Do interactions on social media sometimes make you feel like you’ve entered a fighting pit?
We’re tired of the lightless heat, too. That’s why Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) has arranged for a public dialogue on two of the most controversial issues facing modern feminism, abolishing prostitution and ending gender.
On Saturday May 24 we will honor Memorial Day weekend with a political ceasefire and call for the opening of peace talks. In the spirit of honest, respectful engagement, you are invited to come ask radical feminists any questions on these subjects you may have wanted to ask but were too intimidated by rancorous internet interactions.
Please join us for what will be a thought-provoking day for everyone who wants clarification on what radical feminists really think about prostitution and gender.
This event is open to the public, but you do need to pre-register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our website (radfemsrespond.wordpress.com) to see the schedule, read panelist bios, and submit questions to be answered by the panelists!”
What is so offensive about this? I have no idea, but I’d like to emphasise a couple of parts:
“We’re tired of the lightless heat, too. That’s why Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) has arranged for a public dialogue on two of the most controversial issues facing modern feminism, abolishing prostitution and ending gender.
On Saturday May 24 we will honor Memorial Day weekend with a political ceasefire and call for the opening of peace talks. In the spirit of honest, respectful engagement, you are invited to come ask radical feminists any questions on these subjects you may have wanted to ask but were too intimidated by rancorous internet interactions.”
I love the 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill. Fair enough, his writing style is more arid than the Gobi Desert, but he was a brilliant thinker who was progressive, brave and years ahead of his time,
In 1869, Mill wrote an essay ‘On the Subjection of Women‘ (influenced by his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill‘s earlier work ‘The Enfranchisement of Women’, 1851) which went completely against the prevailing attitude within Victorian and mainland European society as to convention of the roles of men and women in society. He was a vocal and active campaigner for the rights of women, yet acknowledged that by making women free, this would achieve the same for men too.
Mill was a free thinker who believed in the freedoms of opinion and speech. He was virulently anti-censorship. In 1859’s ‘On Liberty‘ (itself also influenced by Harriet Taylor Mill), JS Mill encourages the reader to think about how popular opinion, or convention, may be wrong (Mill knew the value of dissent!). He acknowledged that a good reason to debate popular opinion is that, of course, it may be wrong (think also of ‘the argument from majority’),
He argued that if popular opinion is not debated, it becomes a dead dogma: if truth is held merely as a prejudice, people will not understand it and so be unable to argue against it. Crucially, dissent keeps truth (and ideas) alive: if you can’t defend your position, you don’t know what it means.
Freedom of speech was incredibly important to Mill, even to the point of him stating that it is wrong to deny people the freedom of speech and opinion, even when they are wrong. Denying the freedom to express an (incorrect) opinion also silences those who hold the correct opinion and are in the right. In his own words, it robs “the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation.”
Why is suppressing ideas hurtful? Well, the first reason, of course, is that people are fallible and corrigible, the ‘correct’ opinion may be wrong and no human being has the right to decide something for everyone else, no matter how confident an individual may be that they are right. Ignoring this could silence good, valid ideas.
So, our Tweeter @ is behaving in a very odd way for someone who thinks he is so keen to defend the rights of a group of people (trans people) is rather dangerously flirting with fascism. Instead of grasping the offered olive branch and using this opportunity wisely to engage in open, honest and constructive debate, he’s trying to shut this debate down before it even starts.
The behaviour of people like @ who wish to silence a group of people they disagree with (in this case radical feminist women) is a threat to the very people he is seeking to defend and is dangerous and misguided.