Monday, 16 May 2016

A Click Might Be The Kick A Woman Needs.

There is a term for the kind of activism that takes place online. Clicktivism. This tends to include petitions, blogs and Twitter accounts. It is a very dismissive and damaging term. It silences the weakest of voices. It undermines some real and sometimes hidden effort and it crushes the spirit left in those with very little spirit. It sometimes does much worse than that.

Critics suggest it lacks real engagement. Or a lack of effort.  Or that it is something pointless and “not real”.

The suggestion of this criticism of “clicktivism” is that only “boots on streets – voices raised to power” type of activism matters. Activism where a person is seen. Where a person leaves the house and joins others and a group protest occurs. Or someone appears and speaks out. In public. Or on live media. Or recorded media. Where their face can be seen.

I am a great admirer of Sisters Uncut. They are young mainly it seems. They enjoy using the direct action of disruption, civil disobedience and vocal protest that the Suffragettes used. It's great. Marvellous. Inspiring. I applaud them with hands and feet!

These days I am privileged to attend marches. I attend conferences. I have spoken on radio shows when asked. I have done T.V interviews if asked. Women aren’t asked often and if they are, and they do, they can be criticised for "hunting the limelight".  If I’m asked then I try to participate if it isn't too dangerous or I ask another woman if she will. If I don’t feel as well-qualified as another woman I ask her to take my place. I have a genuine fear of taking the space that a more knowledgeable woman should occupy. Many feminists despite accusations to the contrary aren't hungry for "limelight" especially when you consider the automatic abuse from men that comes with it. It is a given response to think, "Dare I do this? What will come from it? Who will come for me?" I wasn't always able to do any of this. I wasn't allowed. 

I was asked to speak at a conference last summer and was unable to because a man threatened to publish pictures of me that would then put me in danger. He was also threatening to turn up and confront me. I doubted he would, but he was alerting others who might have. This is the man who has been stalking me for a very long time and determined to get others to hurt me. He is desperate to get evidence of who I am and pictures of my family. Someone took pictures of another woman and thought it was me and gave them to him (thank you to that "person") and he published them on his blog. I was miles away in Cornwall, thank goodness, and the other woman was easily identifiable and obviously not me and so the aim of hurting me was pointless. That time. So just being visible can be very dangerous for activist women. 

I have been responsible for starting petitions. I have been heavily criticised for it. I have also been targeted for abuse because of them. Lots of people signed some of those petitions and it is those people I am writing about. Who are they and why do they do it?

"Clicking a petition is easy. It means nothing. It is lazy and it is pointless."

Well. Before we dismiss those clickers let's look at who they might be.

Maybe the woman clicking is in a violent relationship. Perhaps she has a metaphorical (or literal) foot on her throat most of the day and perhaps has had it there for too much of her life. Maybe, when she manages to log onto a laptop it is at great risk to her personal safety. Maybe she does that with extreme anxiety about being "caught" by her abuser. Maybe she engages in a protest about enforced high heels, or rapists, or child abusers, or being excluded from bank notes. Maybe she objects to domestic violence being trivialised by the press. Maybe she clicks and thinks something like this.....

"Fuck you man. Fuck you and the shit you put me through. Fuck you and the way you have treated me today. Fuck you and the way you make me live like some sort of servile shadow, sliding through my own life towards death. Fuck you for stealing from me. Fuck you for smashing my life to bits and making me watch. Fuck you!"

Maybe after she's clicked she feels part of something. She feels real. She feels like she has made a difference for someone and that one day that someone might help her. Maybe she hopes that things might change. Maybe she hopes that one day someone might break down her door and help her out of the hell she has been left in. Maybe she hopes that one day someone might notice her dying.

Maybe she has a Twitter account. Maybe she uses it secretly. Maybe she links with other women. Maybe she pretends she isn't in a terrible situation. Maybe this helps her cope. Maybe she grows a little in confidence through that contact. Maybe she learns. Maybe she learns a lot. Maybe she grows a little stronger. Maybe she leans on those women and they support her. Maybe she finds a way to get more help. Maybe she finally gets free.

Maybe the click was the kick that saved a woman. Just one woman. Isn't that enough?

I thank the women who gave me the right and the desire to kick. I owe you my life.

Love to the sisters,

JH x