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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

CW:  rape threats, child abuse threats

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Yesterday I came across this series of tweets from a feminist writer who I’ve followed for years (and who was very significant to my development as a teen).  Valenti is the author of Full Frontal Feminism (2007), Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape (2008, with Jaclyn Friedman), He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut (2008), The Purity Myth  (2009), Why Have Kids (2012), and most recently, Sex Object: A Memoir (2016). Her work has also appeared in publications including Ms, The Nation, The Guardian,  and The Washington Post.
When you speak out about things that challenge the way people know themselves to exist within the world, there is always pushback. I get it, concepts such as the simultaneous reality of gender as a social construct and gender fluidity or even an open concept of queerness is challenging. It’s challenging for me, a person who has dedicated years to studying gender, I can only imagine how intense it feels to be told that what you’ve been taught about gender, sexuality, race, ability level etc. isn’t inherently true. Fear and discomfort lead to reaction, and I believe that it’s important for people to have the ability to react in a way that feels authentic for them. I also believe that this reaction ought not to be stagnant, and ought to be used as a starting point to move forward and expand consciousness. However, this takes it too far. No one deserves to be threatened with rape (or threatened at all), and especially not the rape of a child, I don’t care how challenging a concept may be for you. It’s one thing to have a reaction yourself, but to violently impose that reaction on another person is unacceptable. To take it one step further, it is one thing to impose your violent reaction on a person who publicly works with difficult topics (not okay at all) and another to impose a violent reaction on an innocent child, who hasn’t consented to engaging with the subject at all (next level fucked up).
My politics are not often accepted in the small town where I live. On a regular basis, I am called a feminazi, militant (lmao, if you know me, you know why this is funny), I’ve even been called a terrorist. I’ve had men tell me they were going to “teach me what my mouth should really be used for”, and yes, even straight up rape threats. For speaking and writing about thing I am passionate about (oh, and studied lol).
That is all a really fucked up response to folks putting their ideas forward (yet, how often do people argue against feminism with “free speech”?), but it doesn’t even hold a candle to the threat that Ms. Valenti received regarding her daughter. As she said, “I should not have to fear for my kids safety because I write about feminism”. She shouldn’t have to fear for her own safety either. None of us should. People have responded to Valenti saying that since she chooses to engage with such loaded subject matters, these kind of threats are part of the job. I’ve heard the same thing. To this, I say, step the fuck back. No one should ever be subject to violence because of the work they do, whether it is challenging the framework of society or not.
When you are putting your energy into actively fighting against something like feminism, you need to understand that you are actively fighting against something that holds the intention to actively care for people. That is what you’re fighting against. Feminism isn’t perfect. It’s not simple, or clean, or linear. There are people who practice it in an intersectional, anti-oppressive way, and there are people who make it all about middle-class, white, able-bodied, cis women. We’re (arguably) in the 4th wave, and there will, no doubt, be many more waves to come. Feminism doesn’t look like any one thing. However, what underlies this diverse range of feminisms is the intention to actively care for people. How to get there is up for debate, and if you ask any group of self-identified feminists, you will get a huge range of responses. There are so many things worth fighting against, but caring for one another should not be even close to the top of that list. I’m not saying it’s easy or you need to agree- it is challenging shit. But take a look at your priorities and have a little humanity.
Fight rape. Fight threats. Leave feminists (and their kids) the fuck alone.

Also, if people think that these kind of responses are going to shut us (feminists) up, think again. You are literally proving our point and fuelling the fire. Have your reaction. Use your reaction as a means of opening up discussion and maybe even shifting paradigms. Do not threaten people with violence for writing about something that is challenging for you.

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