Activism at its finest: vandalism and intimidation at…corporate headquarters of a polluting oil giant? Steve Bannon’s indoor pool? The parking garage at Fox News? No – a women’s library. Guerrilla Feminist Collective was there and tells us what the “activists” had to contribute:
Last night we had to push through physical intimidation and lots of verbal nonsense to enter the new Vancouver Women’s Library.
Anti-feminist protesters actually showed up for once! They were welcomed inside (snowing, cold, everyone was welcome), but asked to leave when they tried to tear down feminist posters in the space and continued their physical intimidation inside. Police had to be called for fear of destruction of the space and the safety of library patrons inside. The protesters held signs and shouted at people entering the space. They poured wine over the books. They smoked inside when asked not to. They pulled the fire alarm. Some of them tried to bar then pushed women entering the space. As far as we saw, men were left alone to come and go as they pleased.
Women were shamed and blamed for calling the police, for fearing for theirs and others’ safety. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. All battered women will be familiar with these tactics. When we pointed out how we were physically barred then pushed from entering the space, and how threatening that felt, protesters wanted to know how we’d gender the person, rather than discuss the ethics of violence at hand.
That’s what “trans activism” has become – a transparent excuse to tell women what to do and push them around if they refuse.
Despite clearly stated goals (creation of women’s space for women’s work and dialogue), inclusion (all women), transparency of funding (self & UBC women’s centre), hard work (unpaid), and initiative (frankly brilliant caring GOODNESS of heart, seeking to create A WOMEN’S LIBRARY) the organizers were demonized, targeted, lied about, and all but burnt at the stake.
Ridiculous demands were made, such as the stepping down of founding member Emily (for having volunteered at and supporting a shelter for women fleeing male violence), creation of a board of directors (must everything be Mc-incorporated?), and the removal of certain books (fascism 101).
One of the three founders dropped out last minute under the heat of hatred and vicious verbal attacks rampantly circulating the “activist” communities. The remaining two women, Em and Bec, worked hard with the help of friends to open this space on time and as promised. We’re so proud to know and support these women, this space, and the beautiful hope it brings for women gathering, women speaking, women lifting each other up and shielding one another from the hate and violence that surrounds us, however that may brand or market itself.
Despite all the shit, the pure hate, the lies, the violence, the verbal attacks, once inside, the library was amazing. The conversations inside were energizing. The solidarity and diversity in women young and old was beautiful to behold. No wonder they want to shut it down. Women united are powerful. We can’t let them win.
We are feeling so much love and gratitude for the women of Vancouver Women’s Library and cannot wait to see it grow and flourish. Not just the collection of physical books, but the community of strong, brave women who will utilize and contribute to the space. Thank you women, and see you soon. Stand proud. You have created something good and true.
Who are the people making these demands, and what are they demanding? A group that calls itself, fittingly, GAG, posted a long manifesto – demand – ransom note – whateverthefuck, claiming to speak for a nameless “group”…
*This note is being shared by GAG on behalf of a group composed of sex workers, trans women, IBPOC, queers, and people in solidarity with them, in opposition to the opening of the Vancouver Women’s Library. This note is to be copied and shared by other groups in solidarity with those leading the action this evening*
Oh that group. But what’s it called, where does it meet, how can we talk to it, why is it speaking through an intermediary?
It’s classic, though, isn’t it, all those sub-groups whose only reason for living seems to be bullying and silencing feminist women. All those sub-groups that can think of nothing more urgent to do right now than to disrupt the opening of a women’s library. Funny how much the new “activism” looks exactly like the old misogyny.
So, their account of themselves:
“We are writing this list of demands in response to the opening of the Vancouver Women’s Library. With the ongoing violence against trans women, sex workers, and IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour) perpetuated by one of the main organizers paired with the exclusion of work that centers trans women and sex workers we came together as a group including: sex workers, trans women, POC, queers, and people in solidarity. We demand the following, because there is nothing radical about replicating settler-colonial violence, transmisogyny, and whorephobia*.
*If you are not a sex worker this term is not for you.
TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism) : Trans Exclusionary Feminism, also known as Trans Women Exterminationist Feminism, is a loosely-organized group with a message of hate and exclusion against transgender women in particular, and transgender people as a whole. They have attached themselves to radical feminism as a means to deny trans women basic access to health care, women’s groups, housing, jobs, support services, restroom facilities, and anywhere that may be considered women’s space. TERFs are complicit in the deaths of trans women, by outing them, promoting the denial of needed government services, and creating the myth of trans women as sexually predatory men in disguise.
SWERF (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminism) : Sex-Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminism or SWERF, is a group who advocate for criminalization of sex work, see sex work as inherent exploitation with no recognition of autonomy and agency of sex workers and seek to control people’s bodies much like the state. They enact violence on sex workers by working to deny their access to resources and support. They work alongside the colonial government to pass bills that do direct violence to sex workers, such as, Bill C-36 (see inside).
You can see how dishonest it is. It’s Trump-level dishonest.
After that string of lies, they get to their “demands”:
OUR DEMANDS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY TO THE ORGANIZERS
The library needs to be transparent about its funding, organizing policies and affiliations with other institutions, both within the academic system and outside of it.
The library must elect a new board that is comprised of women that reflect the breadth of experience in our community, so that the organizing committee is not entirely cis and white.
Not entirely “cis” – so they “demand” that a women’s library not be entirely women. We were allowed about five minutes to push all-male institutions to let women come in (in tiny numbers), but that’s all over now – women are too damn uppity so they have to be punched back down again.
The library needs to have a policy of not featuring titles that are written by non-trans women and non-sex workers that dehumanize, speak over and advocate harm towards trans women and sex workers. We have enclosed a list of books from the catalogue that perpetrate these issues.
The library needs to include a vast array of books written by women of colour, sex workers, incarcerated women, and trans women about their lived experiences. We are currently compiling a comprehensive list of suggestions that we will share when the other demands are met.
Current organiser Em Laurent must step down as an organizer and end her involvement with the library because her presence is not safe for community members and after years of violence enacted against women, sex workers and queers, accountability will be a very long process.
The organizers must also enter into a public meeting with the communities that it aims to serve to discuss the harm done to marginalized women in the community and how the library can move forward.
“Must” – women have to do what they’re told or else.
Then there’s another 50 thousand words or so explaining how right and perfect they are and how scum of the earth the women who organized the library are.
…all of the organizers have been linked to an organization that does not support trans women, active drug users, or active sex workers and collectives that call for the exclusion of trans women and femmes, abolition of sex workers rights, and that center a feminism that excludes anyone who is not white, cisgender, or doesn’t fit into western constructs of womanhood.
Cis white women are the beneficiaries of white supremacy. People who are the most affected by police brutality, settler colonialism, racialized violence, incarceration, gentrification, sexual violence, ableism and houselessness can and should be the people creating safer spaces for those most impacted by these experiences.
…The same ideology and praxis of hate is present and replicated in right-wing/alt-right/neo-nazi organizing. TERFs and SWERFs organize for the same violent policies and work in partnership with right-wing hate groups to replicate settler-colonial white-supremacist constructions of cisheteropatrarchy that outright reject, erase, and deny IBPOC sovereignty, body sovereignty, and all peoples that do not fit under euro-centric nativism…The moniker ‘self-identified’ is used by cis women as a move to innocence from their complicity in violence against trans women. It is used to mark trans women as ‘Other’ and centre themselves again as victims of patriarchy. This will not stand.
They repeatedly accuse one of the organizers of “violence” by which, it turns out, they mean “ties to” a Vancouver women’s shelter.
Then they give a long list of books they order the library to remove.