This is our truth, tell us yours
Apparently, what motivates women who criticize ‘media’ or banknote feminists like Caroline Criado-Perez and Glosswitch is misogyny. Now, I said my bit about this particular debate a while ago, when I said
I don’t know if the women Glosswitch is debating with are misogynists, because I don’t know what misogyny means. Does she really mean to say that smugsexual women are self haters? The word is at risk of being stripped of all its meaning by over use, by its casual abuse as a catch all to rally the faithful to Glosswitch’s call to arms. And of course, that means I don’t know if I’m a misogynist in her eyes either. And that’s the key weakness in Glosswitch’s rhetorical style, and its strength – it can’t be rebutted, it can’t be debated with in any forensic way, but it will bind the true believers around her just as Senator McCarthy sought to bind his supporters around him in the 40s and 50s, with a nudge and a wink and a hint of something alien in the background.
I also had something to say about banknote feminism the other day. Glosswitch’s latest post is troubling, to say the least. Leave aside the angst, and the hint that all may not be well in Glosswitch’s world, (the darkness in her soul and so on) since that may well be poetic licence or an attempt at the hyperbole she appears to embrace, and think about her focus.
Her focus is other women, and winning the debate with them. Great stuff. World changing even. I’m reminded of Richard Seymour’s resignation letter from the ISN, a grouplet formed out of the SWP; Seymour and his gang of five were regarded by the ISN as a tendency to deprave and corrupt because they talked about sex. In his resignation letter Seymour talked in his usual wordy irrelevance about the way the ISN behaved, and the relationships between the various factions on Facebook – the outside world was not allowed to intrude in any meaningful way because what mattered was how the ISN should behave. Not so much ‘What Is To Be Done’, the classic Leninist question, as ‘What Are We To Do Mildred’, like Hinge and Bracket debating etiquette.
The similarity between Seymour’s whiny resignation and Glosswitch’s bid to establish her right to criticize and name call because someone else allegedly started it is astonishing. Outside the cloistered world of the media andtheblogosphere, there’s a real world. It’s a real world that turns nice kids from good homes into Isabella Sorley, a vile, foul mouthed aggressive alcoholic whose life is one catastrophe heaped upon another. Is feminism not also concerned with Sorley’s fate, and how she got to where she did?
In response to a comment on the Sunday Sermon this week I wrote
You don’t have to like or dislike Caroline Criado-Perez to find something distasteful about the way in which Sorley and Nimmo’s case was turned into a show trial. The offences were committed in the Northumbria police area; the trial held in London before the most senior magistrate. That smacks of a show trial…. The publication of the sentencing remarks similarly is a way of saying ‘this is a marker – you may not do this thing.’ One can only wonder what advice Sorley and Nimmo received about the likely sentence, and whether that influenced their guilty pleas.
Is it minimizing abuse to say that Sorley’s sentence is utterly useless as anything other than an attempt to police behaviour by force? No.
Sorley will not acquire the motivation to address her drink problems by doing a few weeks in a badly equipped women’s prison, and pretending that she will or that it’s the only solution is stupid, naive and childish. Is it minimizing abuse to question whether there was anything misogynistic in the senior district judge’s obvious distaste for Sorley? Not in my view – the differential treatment of female defendants at the magistrates court has long been a feature of my experience of them, and of feminist studies of criminal justice. Similarly, it’s hard not to read into the district judge’s remarks about the statements provided by CC-P and Stella Creasey the same kind of obsequiousness that featured in Mr Justice Caulfield’s remarks about Mary Archer – it’s fair to say that the contrast between how the courts treat respectable and disorderly women is a reasonable line of inquiry for any feminist to pursue…
Who is wearing the metaphorical scold’s bridle? Isabella Sorley or Glosswitch? Faced with a sentence that offers no prospect of rehabilitation it is hard not to picture the older Sorley as Edna the Inebriate Woman lurching from disaster to disaster with no-one giving a shit how she ended up the way she did.
I’m a man. Disputes amongst feminists about how best to be a feminist are not really my province, and, in truth, when they’re carried out in an atmosphere of bitterness and narcissistic victim claiming they’re an unedifying sight. I know something about being a man though, and part of what I know is that if I’m to challenge the behaviour of the worst men, the abusers, the rapists, the silencers and the thugs, a search for insight is more likely to help than demanding an eye for an eye.
What Sorley and Nimmo did was wrong. Unequivocally wrong. What has been done to them by the state was not right though, and will not help. It won’t help prevent Twitter abuse, (because those who really want to abuse, as opposed to useless drunks like Sorley, will simply use TOR) and it won’t help explain, understand or prevent human catastrophes like Isabella Sorley, a clever, well educated woman (2:1 degree, apparently) who somewhere along the line has learned disastrous behaviours. As a man I look at the men who do things that are wrong, drinking, fighting, puking, abusing, hurting and making me ashamed to be a man, and I do the hard part of looking at them and wondering how they got there, and how we prevent it.
The darkness in my soul, of course, is having the humility to know, every time I’ve been in the court as an observer, that there is no strain of moral perfection that separates me from the man (or woman) in the dock, just circumstance and chance. By being willing to acknowledge that, to stand alongside him and accept that judgement on myself, I can try to picture and work for a world where there are less men like him.
I can’t understand a feminism that is blind to Iabella Sorley’s gender, and the back story that put her where she is today, or that puts infighting above insight. I’ll offer a clue in parting though. Once upon a time, in a very different life, a drunken woman tried to stab me with a broken glass. She was prosecuted for affray and assaulting the police who tried to arrest her, and was imprisoned at Styal. Her husband bumped into me in a pub round the corner from the courts, and told me something of her back story, which featured abuse and a childhood moving from care to foster parents to care, to an adult experience punctuated by magistrates courts and psychiatric wards. Styal didn’t fix her. It hadn’t before and it wouldn’t this time. The psychiatric wards and the pills didn’t fix her. Punishment was no deterrent to a woman who had learned that the world’s job was to hurt her, that her destiny was pain. I might have detested her when she smashed the glass and went for my face, screaming that she was going to blind me for stopping her drink, and I might have been indifferent to the amount of pain required to stop her, but wanting to know why, wanting to include her rather than shut her away behind bars is part of who I am, and hopefully part of why she was in the dock, not me.
Arguing about what people said, and what it means, in an introverted, inward facing way is to exclude the real world of Isabella Sorley, who is probably also a victim. It can’t be, mustn’t be the focus of people who wish to change the world, even if it’s essential to the practice of people asserting their position within irrelevant movements that have no relationship to the concrete, material realities.