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You can’t silence a feminist Sometimes you have to take to the streets to make sure you are heard

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)


July 23, 2021   5 mins

My first public protest was at the age of 18. I stormed a local branch of WH Smith with a bunch of other women and cleared the top shelves of all the porn mags, chucking them across the floor. Outside, there were more of us, waving banners and placards declaring that “Porn is the theory, rape is the practice”, and “Women are not for sale”. It was thrilling, even though it was a relatively small gesture. But it did make a splash.

The police eventually turned up and moved us on, but not before we had made our point and incited curiosity and solidarity from passers-by. Our demonstration was even reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post. Our message had been heard.

That sort of in-your-face feminism was — alas —  a bit sidelined by the internet. Along came the rise of keyboard activism, whose warriors prioritise sending out petitions and messages of condemnation on Twitter over taking to the streets alongside their sisters. Partly that’s convenience but partly it’s because the internet is where a lot of the violence is incited and savage verbal attacks take place.

Take the particularly vicious campaign against Milli Hill. Last November, Hill, founder of the Positive Birth Movement and the of bestselling books including Give Birth Like a Feminist, was the victim of an online pile on when she took issue with the phrase “birthing people”. She wrote: “It is women who are seen as the ‘fragile sex’ etc, and obstetric violence is violence against women. Let’s not forget who the oppressed are here and why.”

On they piled. Slowly at first, but then harder and faster: “anti-LGBTQ”, “transphobic”, “toxic” “dangerous”
 And people she had worked with dropped her. So she laid low for 8 months and then wrote a blog about her appalling experience.

At which point it all kicked off again. One trans activist tweeted at Hill: “Milli, you obviously haven’t learned from the response JK Rowling got from her post. You aren’t incorrect that obstetric violence is sex-based. But how difficult is it to acknowledge that not everyone who is capable of giving birth, identifies with the female or woman label?”

Rowling shot off a blinder in support:

 

 

The response from women everywhere was amazing. As I write, the tweet has been ‘liked’ more than 24,000 times.

Rowling’s refusal to be cowed by the bullies is giving strength to other women to stand up and speak out. Rowling keeps going because she knows that thousands upon thousands of women have her back.

This feels like a significant moment. Feminists are rising up.

And as this brilliant sisterly solidarity plays out out on the internet, it’s filtering out on to the streets again. More and more women are putting down the keyboard and picking up the loudhailer — some for the first time.

Earlier this week, more than 300 women and a smattering of men gathered at Glasgow Green in protest at the ongoing case against Marion Millar. The Scottish accountant was arrested, interrogated and charged under the Communications Act for sending six tweets in 2019 which were deemed to be offensive. One tweet included a photograph of a bow of ribbons in the green, white and purple colours of the Suffragettes, tied around a tree. According to the complainant(s), the ribbons represented a noose. For her crime, Millar faces six months in prison, away from her young family.

Even though the hearing was postponed, the protest went ahead, with supporters congregating on the green, waving banners and placards reading, “#WomenWontWheesht” (wheesht is a Scottish colloquialism meaning ‘shut up’) a hashtag that has come to symbolise the feminist refusal to be silenced.

They chanted, sang, and made a fuss. It was excellently old school. And they were full-throated in outrage for police and prosecutors targeting women for supposed “hate crime” when convictions for rape and male violence are at an all-time low.

For as long as there has been male violence and oppression, women have protested. The very first women-only direct action on record was in Manchester in 1905. Christabel Pankhurst and millworker, Annie Kenney, disrupted speeches by prominent Liberals Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Grey, asking where the men stood with regards to women’s political rights.

In November 1910, suffragettes stormed the House of Commons to protest against the hostility of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to women’s voting rights. The police responded by attacking the women with truncheons, and many were beaten, sexually assaulted and humiliated.

Thus was the women’s case proven. The women hit back and rampaged through Westminster smashing windows and attacking property. They were arrested, but this particular direct action went down in history.

Feminists threw flour bombs at the Miss World competition in London in 1970; invaded the Ideal Home exhibition in protest of lesbians having their children removed by the state in the 1980s; and spray painted buildings and stormed churches during sermons in the campaign to criminalise rape in marriage.

It is only visible action that will shame governments and other state agencies into change. Social media could never replace standing outside a court building and shouting our demands in full view of the public. That’s why I’ve helped organise hundreds of public demonstrations across the UK against domestic abuse and injustice towards women.

It’s important we are heard because there is currently a concerted effort from both the Left and the Right to silence us: the Left won’t let women talk about their sex-based rights; the Right is stripping resources from the places were abused women find shelter. And something is shifting. Women are getting noisier. Women are making a stand. Just look at the masses who turned out to express their anger and grief over the Sarah Everard murder.

And those who stand up inspire others to do the same. Just like Milly Hill, who told me: “Other women made me feel braver, and I wanted to in turn help other women to feel braver.” And JK, too, standing up to the bullies and facing down the death threats.

I have interviewed 50 young women over the course of two years for my forthcoming book on feminism, in order to explore cross generational understanding and cooperation, which recently has been lacking between young feminists and the Second Wave, like me.

But each and every interviewee told me a similar story – that they are rising up against the liberal notion that everything bad that happens to them is “empowering”. They are getting angry about the global sex trade, about forced marriage, FGM, and daily sexual harassment. That is why more and more younger women are taking to the streets – to reclaim them.

Like Marion Millar and her supporters, feminists young and old will not be intimidated into silence or capitulation. It is the antithesis of our movement. Feminism exists because women have been under the cosh patriarchy for centuries. My favourite chant, constantly heard at feminist rallies is, “Women’s tradition: Struggle not submission.”

I will never forget the exhilaration of my early public protests and direct actions. I was even held in a police station on one occasion, having been accused of public order offences. I was finally released without charge the following morning, and I recall feeling the sweet sense of freedom. I want all women and girls to feel that freedom, but every hour of every day.


Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.

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Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago

“The Scottish accountant was arrested, interrogated and charged under the Communications Act for sending six tweets in 2019 which were deemed to be offensive.”
You are so busy marching up and down and “disrupting” that you don’t see the elephant in the room. What have we come to when someone can be prosecuted for expressing a view that some other people don’t like? Did you think that the Communications Act was a good idea? I wonder.

Last edited 2 years ago by Terry Needham
David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

I’m sure Julie would be happy for that Act to be used against those she disagrees with.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

That is what I thought

Hersch Schneider
Hersch Schneider
2 years ago

‘there is currently a concerted effort from both the Left and the Right to silence us: the Left won’t let women talk about their sex-based rights; the Right is stripping resources from the places were abused women find shelter
I disagree that Tory austerity counts as a concerted effort by the Right to silence women.
Your biggest threat right now by far is the radical Left and the lunatic LGBTQ+ lot. A monster the radical feminists such as Bindel helped create

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago

Good point well made. The “Left” always have to manufacture a gripe against “the Right” – otherwise they would have to confront the fact it is the Left doing all the running. The “Right” just want to be left in peace.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

Reminds me of an old joke where a female was listing all the attributes she wanted from her ideal partner.
The man had only one desire – he just wanted to be left alone 🙂

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

Governments can’t impose “austerity” on places that don’t depend on government, ie, taxpayer, funding in the first place.
True feminists wouldn’t allow themselves to be dependent on such places.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

#womenwontwheesht
Women who don’t identify as ‘radical feminists’ have had enough and are joining hands against the trans assault on women’s rights.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

There’s no corresponding trans assault on men’s rights because men have none worth appropriating.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Redman
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Yes well, don’t see these hulking trans men able to assault any men!

Jorge Espinha
Jorge Espinha
2 years ago

“You can’t silence a feminist” where were the feminists when women were groped and abused in Cologne? Where were the feminists when girls were systematically raped in Rotherham? Where were the feminists when Ayaan Hirsi Ali needed their support? Where are the feminists regarding the rights of women within the minorities of the European Ghettos? As expected the LGBTQ revolutionaries are at each other’s throats. Some of us reach for the popcorns.

Al M
Al M
2 years ago

I’m interested by the Twitter post response to J K Rowling. Perhaps some people have children and don’t identify as female; I cannot dispute this and would not seek to. But most ‘birthing people’ most definitely do ‘identify’ as both female and mothers (I suspect also that they find the word ‘identity’ utterly ghastly also and simply feel that they have innate knowledge of their true selves). But some activists feel that it is morally right to deny this ‘identity’ to the vast majority of people.

How difficult is it for them to understand that taking the idea of motherhood away is deeply offensive to many women (and to may men also), as is insisting that everyone’s view and language must be from the perspective of the minority.

As I recall, Roger Scruton noted the process of using the experience of a minority to invalidate the subjective reality of the majority in Fools, Frauds and Firebrands. The intention is to undermine societal norms and society by framing them as oppressive. He sums it up superbly.

Last edited 2 years ago by Al M
Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Julie, I wonder if you have time for men who are not ‘feminists’? There are those of us who have great respect for women and for whom porn is degrading and objectifying. Going back to your first demo, did you also protest at the women who get paid to become objectified or are they viewed as not being culpable in that trade?

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Men cannot be feminists. Only women can be feminists. Men can be allies. Men who do not support women having fully equal rights under the law, including employment law, and who believe that women should be housewives, are not allies.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Thanks for articulating the essential sexism at the heart of feminism.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Indeed – Caroline’s comment really summed up much of the reasoning why many feminists miss out on greater levels of support 
. it managed to be at the same time both condescending and depressing.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Caroline, I remember lots of men (Obama) wearing “This is what a feminist looks like!” T-shirts. I had thought they were being literal.
At the risk of aggravating you, my wife loved being a housewife. After 25 years she carved out an impressive career. Women shouldn’t be intimidated out of those choices.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Sounds about right. I always understood feminism as a mutual-assistance group of women, by women, for women – much like the Black Police Association. Would you agree?

‘Auxiliaries’ sounds more right than ‘allies’, though. Allies are, in principle, equal participants.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

The sisters would rather march demanding men do something, than be “doin’ it for themselves”.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
2 years ago

A good idea Julie to attempt a cross generational conversation, but I note that in what you say about the young generation “They are getting angry about the global sex trade, about forced marriage, FGM, and daily sexual harassment” there is no mention of the most important question of all which is gender identity idelogy and its denial of biological sex. What do young women think about that?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“The Scottish accountant was arrested, interrogated and charged under the Communications Act for sending six tweets in 2019 which were deemed to be offensive.”

There is the problem. Radicals making law. Minority making law for the majority always has problematic sides.

“According to the complainant(s), the ribbons represented a noose. For her crime, Millar faces six months in prison, away from her young family.”

Insane. But one does wonder if Julie would only promote reasonable law if she had the backing to get what she wished passed. By reading her stuff I would worry similar to the above laws, just targeted slightly differently, would be made. Laws punishing perceived intent are very problematic.

“Hard cases make bad law
Hard cases make bad law is an adage or legal maxim. The phrase means that an extreme case is a poor basis for a general law that would cover a wider range of less extreme cases. In other words, a general law is better drafted for the average circumstance as this will be more common.”

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Quite possibly we’d see a drift away from “equality law” and start to see incidences of “gender apartheid” legislation.
e.g. Longer prison sentences for violence against women – than violence against men – and longer still if the offender was male.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

e.g. Longer prison sentences for violence against women – than violence against men – and longer still if the offender was male.

Already the case in general for all types of crime – men are more than twice as likely to be imprisoned for the same crimes in both the US and UK.[1] [2] In the US they receive over 60% longer sentences on average [3].
1 – https://permanent.fdlp.gov/gpo71983/fsd0512.pdf
2 – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/571737/associations-between-sex-and-sentencing-to-prison.pdf
3 – https://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1164&context=law_econ_current

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Except more women are jailed for offences where men get a fine or a Community order. Why is that still allowed to happen? And why are men getting community orders for violence against women? Julie and all of us who think the same want fair lawwsthat consider why things like dingle sex spaces are needed snd need protecting.

Surveys over the last 30 years show that girls and women are flashed at and perved by men from the age of 9 onwards. And society thinks that is okay. Why? Why is it still okay for men to get their tackle out and wave it at women? Why do people think it okay if a man wants to masturbate on public transport? And why are we patronised and/or laughed at when we report it?

This is what Julie and women like her (including me) are fighting against. We want a society where everyone receives equal treatment and those men who think differently can get the treatment they need or the punishment that suits so they understand the boundaries.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

girls and women are flashed at and perved by men from the age of 9 onwards. And society thinks that is okay.

No, “society” does not think that is okay. You made that up.

Why is it still okay for men to get their tackle out and wave it at women?

It is not. You made that up.

Why do people think it okay if a man wants to masturbate on public transport? 

People do not “think it okay”. You made that up.

And why are we patronised and/or laughed at when we report it?

You aren’t. You made that up.

We want a society where everyone receives equal treatment

You do not. You want permission to hate half the population and be applauded for it. Not going to happen.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Redman
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Well said Jon.

Al M
Al M
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

The typo in the second to last line of the first paragraph interests me. I thought the argument was for ‘dingle’ free spaces.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Gamma Bias is a hypothesis that seeks to account for this discrepancy. I don’t think its grounding assumption of cognitive distortion as been empirically tested yet though.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

feminism was — alas — a bit sidelined by the internet

Let’s spell this out a bit more clearly as Julie Bigot doesn’t want to.
The internet is not running out of porn like it has run out of jokes. If you go back 25 years, people used to tell each other jokes all the time. Now nobody does, because jokes are generated slowly, whereas the internet moves everything instantly. Everybody’s now heard everyone else’s jokes and there aren’t any new ones.
Nothing of the kind is happening with porn. There isn’t a thin and tiny old wellspring of porn that’s been consumed so that everyone who wants to has now seen all porn because it’s not being produced at a rate that keeps up. It’s the opposite. The internet has brought a tsunami of porn in such quantity that the traditional porn industry is going out of business.
Why is this happening? Because its traditional model of paid studio-based performers can’t compete when there is so much out there being produced and given away for free by volunteers. They do it for the exhibitionism, or they use it as advertising for their services as prostitutes (porn is clearly on the prostitution spectrum), or they are happy for their supposed “leaked” sex tape to be leaked because it gets them publicity and if you’re Paris Hilton that’s all you lack. If it doesn’t go viral they keep leaking it themselves till it does. They aren’t doing it for the money.
The idea that all women in porn are somehow being exploited, often found alongside the eccentric idea that all porn users are male, is simply laughable – and so, so, so dated. Nothing reveals better how utterly fossilised Julie Bigot’s views are; she made up her mind in 1988 or whenever, she’s never changed it before, and she’s not about to now. She’s a sort of Mary Whitehouse figure, sniffing disapproval of anything that doesn’t fit her weird, 30-years-out-of-date worldview. In the same way that anyone called Kylie is about 33, anyone who thinks what Ms Bigot thinks is about 60.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

How many women are trafficked to provide your porn? Is that so so dated? Is the fact that boys think that porn is the normal way to behave with their girlfriends okay? Is it okay that young girls are asked for a**l sex on their first date acceptable?

When does society waken up to boundaries? When do adults say enough is enough?

And when are certain men going to be supportive of women who are trying to make society safer for all of us?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

The answer to that last question 
.. it will be when articles that lazily lump all men into the same demonised category – are replaced with content that clearly and openly acknowledges that it is only subset of men that need to be chastised.
This particular author seems to want to frequently alienate all men – so probably generates a net loss to your causes.
I suspect she knows this – but doesn’t care.

(sadly your reply to “A Spetzari” above would appear to use the same counterproductive style guide)

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

How many women are trafficked to provide your porn?

It’s not “my” porn, thanks, but the answer is: roughly none. It’s not economically worth it.
You need to focus your rage on the women who are willing, unpaid participants in and creators of porn. Without those millions of volunteers, there’d be no porn.
It suits you to believe otherwise because you’re a sexist.

Paul Snaith
Paul Snaith
2 years ago

Wheesht features in the The Lambton Worm, an old song heard around NE England, too. You might like the theme: “Wheesht lads, had your gobs, a’ll tell you all an awful story
”
Not in favor of shushing anyone, whether through abuse of the communication act or proper use of what’s likely bad law.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

Never thought I’d be on the side of Bindel.