As I’m writing this text on Friday evening (rather than on the day of its publication in order not to break the Women’s Strike cyber picket line), millions of women, feminine and non-binary people worldwide prepare for their annual strike. On the International Women’s Day, those of us who can, will walk out from all the work we do, often unpaid, so that human societies can run smoothly and pleasantly: a concept known in the feminist vocabulary as reproductive labour. We will also protest against the patriarchal system which greatly affects most, if not all, aspects of our lives.
This year, along with the reproductive labour for my friends and loved ones, and the paid work I do, I also plan to withdraw the work I provide pretty much day in day out as the editor of Freedom and for the broader anarchism. The reasons for it can be summarised in one phrase: shitty men in the movement.
For those who are not aware of it, and as I’m guessing many cis men may as well not be, shitty men in the movement are a frequent topic of conversation among politically active womnx. But like, on average I should say I have one weekly. These can be regarding gravely serious issues such as sexual abuse and predatory behaviour, violence, bullying and others. Or they can be about more “trivial” matters, such as the countless microaggressions women and non-binary comrades experience. In this text, I will focus mostly on the “trivial” matters, for, whilst on the whole they are not too significant taken individually, they add up, creating an environment which many of us find nigh on impossible to navigate.
I’m fed up with men feeling it its totally ok to bring me unsolicited advice on how to run an anarchist paper, whilst never having done it themselves. Seriously guys, where does this level of confidence come from?
I’m fed up with all of you who have ever called me a sweetheart, honey, a little girl (true story), and my personal favourite, a “pumpkin”.
A decade has passed, but I’m still cringing whenever I am reminded that, at the age of 27, I walked into a London squat and complained about a cat-calling incident which happened a few minutes prior, and a cis bro from a group sitting at that squat commented that I should try to enjoy it as I have only a few years of such treatment left; to the amusement of other cis bros present.
I’m fed up with those of you who ever dared to tell me that I’m uppity, stubborn, difficult, or opinionated; leaving me standing there knowing that if I were a cis dude, it would be assertive, or confident, or knowledgeable.
I’m particularly pissed off with a certain cis man who walked to Freedom Bookshop while I was covering a shift for someone a few months ago, and demanded to speak with “the man in charge”; and, upon learning that the person in charge is myself, still required to speak with “the man”.
I fucking detest this guy who, on another occasion, walked, again, into Freedom Bookshop wanting to speak with the editor, and when I said it is me, he got really confused, and still, insisted on speaking with THE EDITOR, not “the assistant”.
Those of you who come into the room and shake hands with all cis men present, but not with me for some mysterious reason: I mean you do know that the year is 2020 and what you are doing is awkward af right?
The men who, when asked to deal with their sexist mate, do the classic eye-roll and choose to ignore the issue, usually by ignoring myself, forever: dudes, seriously? And I’m meant to build a better society with you?
Men who, upon entering into a conflict situation with me, react to it by picking up the phone to call a mutual cis male friend to complain about me. A PSA for you: you are making the situation worse, primarily for yourself.
Men who feel entitled to tell me that I suck as an editor because this or that is “not how you do things”. You have been presented with the evidence to the contrary, but hey, you still insist that what you see cannot be right. Get lost.
Men who dismiss anything they don’t understand, or don’t like, as not “class struggly” enough for their liking: why don’t you disappear in the depths of irrelevance. Also. You are so boring. But like, jeez dudes.
Men who insist that everything they don’t like or don’t understand is “destroying the movement”. You are kindly requested to keep your opinions to yourself.
All the men who dismiss POCs’, LGBTQA+, sex workers’ and trans and non-binary peoples’ struggles as “IDpol”: why don’t you shut up and listen for a change.
Men who write overlong posts on social media about how they need to be strong and hold on tight in light of the recent changes to the anarchist movement. I mean, yeah you are free not to learn new things, but please don’t expect me to care about it.
These are just a few examples of things that I and many others have to deal with, along with the sexism of society in general. I’m pretty sure my non-cis men comrades could add an endless number of similar experiences. And guess what, this needs to end. People who are not cis men are providing a tonne of work to make anarchism greater than it is at present. Sometimes we enjoy (moderate) successes, sometimes we fail, but what we never do is refuse to learn and move forward. We keep going no matter what. And this, I’m sorry not sorry to inform the shitty men, will not change. You need to change.
See you at the barricades. Just remember, stop being shitty. Stop your mate from being shitty. Make the world just that bit better, for everyone.
I would like to issue a special thanks to Rob Ray and all other cis men from Freedom Collective, and to Ian Bone and Jon Bigger for being some of the most supportive, positive, open-minded people I have ever met within UK anarchism. And to all other cis men in my life who too do not succumb to the shitty men trope. This thanks however it totally complimentary. Not being a shitty man should be a default.