As though everything is about them

Julie Bindel on the conference and its misogynist enemies:

On arrival at the venue I saw the usual array of blue fringed students and other hangers on, some draped in trans flags, others with slogan T-shirts declaring themselves non-binary, genderqueer, he/him, they/them, zi/zir, idi/ot. They were protesting, yes, protesting, a conference with a key aim to campaign to end male violence towards women and girls, and to offer support and solidarity to the victims and survivors of that violence. Of course, the reason put forward by the blue fringes, including those that had waged a war against the conference venue from the moment it was announced, was that the organisers and attendees were anti-trans, as though everything is about them.

Specifically as though everything about women is about them – even more specifically as though everything about feminist women is about them. It’s feminist women who don’t “center” men who say they are women who really get their protest energies going. Men who don’t “center” women who say they are men? Pff, they don’t matter, because they’re men. Men’s hearts are always in the right place. It’s feminist women who are the real demons in the word – conniving, sly, cruel, witchy.

I met some women I had only ever seen on Zoom, such as the amazingly talented Vaishnavi Sundar, a filmmaker from South India and the founder of Women Making Films. Vaishnavi has worked with marginalised women all her life and campaigns against male violence. Her achievements are impressive – Vaishnavi successfully fought for women to be able to access morning-after contraception in the state of Tamil Nadu. In 2018 she began making a film about sexual harassment of Indian women, including the voices of lower-caste women in the workplace as a way to hold the Indian criminal justice system to account for the lack of implementation of its laws. The film, But What Was She Wearing?, was finished in 2020 and Vaishnavi secured screenings in North America before showing it in India. Her reputation is such that her work is always warmly welcomed in both the Global North and South. But shortly before a screening of the film in New York, Vaishnavi was emailed by the organisers and told that she was no longer welcome and the event was cancelled along with Sundar and her film, due to her ‘transphobia’. Their evidence? Tweets such as “A safe space for trans women is not inside a woman’s bathroom”, posted by Vaishnavi.

So the screening of a film about a film about sexual harassment of Indian women, including lower-caste women, was canceled because everything is about men who call themselves women. Men’s need to play-act being women is more significant and support-worthy than women’s need to be free of harassment and violence. What gruesome priorites.

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