Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"If You Really Respect Women, You'll Leave This Gender Inclusive Event"

So about a week or so ago the London Feminist Film Festival kicked off. One particular film, Lesbiana – A Parallel Revolution was apparently gained so much attention that it had to be moved to a larger room and them moved again to a larger room to satisfy the viewing crowd. When the turnout for a movie warrants not one but two location changes you would expect it to be the highlight of the festival right?


It would seem that activist and academic Julia Long decided the viewing crowd needed to thinned out a bit.

So she asked all the men in attendance to leave.

Now let's get one thing straight. Regardless of whether Julia had the actual power to make this move, regardless of how justified she might feel over it, and regardless of how badly she wants to pretend that by calling her own on it is a distraction from the "bigger picture", it was a bad move.

The event was advertised as gender inclusive and tickets were sold in a gender inclusive manner. If this had been billed, advertised, and sold as a women's only event I would have been the first to actively defend it. I don't think that the mere existence of women's only spaces is an inherently bad thing (but I can't help but notice how many think that the mere existence of men's only spaces is inherently bad). It's a matter of what happens in those spaces that will tip that scale one way or another.

However this viewing, and as far as I can tell the entire festival was not built up as a woman's only space. When Julia asked for all the men in attendance to leave she invoked the very exclusionary nature that is ultimately killing all of us. Sure she wrapped it up in a package of pretty words (which I'll get to in a bit) the fact of the matter is after a gender inclusive audience was assembled to be educated on a topic that someone else worked hard to create and present on she ACTIVELY segregated the audience. This is one of those times where "intent doesn't matter" kicks in. No matter how badly she tries to explain that she didn't do this to single out and exclude men that is precisely what her "request" did.

Now in her own response piece Julia tries to weasel her way out of being called out and say that she didn't actually ask all the men in the audience to leave. Let's look at a quote, from her own response article, from she said,
"I just wonder if there are any men that would like to show their solidarity and leave at this point, out of respect for autonomous women's space. It's a polite invitation, but I just thought you might like to consider it, as political allies. Thank you." [Cheers and applause.]
So while she may not have straight up asked the men to leave she made the "request" in the form of a catch-22. I can't be the only person that sees this as, "If you really respect women, you would leave." She wanted to get rid of the men in the audience but instead of doing so in a direct manner (which is ironic given that near the end of her article she called herself  "...asserting the right of women to demand our own spaces...") she turns if back on them so that if they don't leave it means they don't respect women.

I dare say that if Long had any respect for the crowd at that event then she would have at least pushed for creating a women's only space from the get go and holding it up as such. What she did was underhanded. She took an event that was meant to be an opportunity for true solidarity and learning and turned into the Julia Long Grandstand Show.

In her article she name drops Audre Lorde, invokes the Montreal Massacre by Marc Lepine, and generally reflects the trouble she caused back on to those calling her on it and then tries to take the hire ground with some "the ball is in your court" closing remark.

So Julia if the ball is in my court here is what I'm going to do with it. I'm going to take it and go find women and feminists that actually want men to participate in this "bigger picture" you speak of. And in the event that they want their own spaces will have the courage to assert that right in a way that doesn't put men in a double bind. There are plenty of women and feminists out there that when they want a woman's only space will actually call it so from the get go, attacks and all, not let guys in and then change the rules later in way that protects them later when called on it.

But I'll say this Julia. If the time comes that you designate a space as woman only from the get go and some guys try to horn in on it, I got your back in defending it.