Feminism and the LGBT movement are not enemies

Equality isn’t a zero sum game.

Feminism Get Real Hesham liberation

I am a woman. I am a determined supporter of the fair equality between men and women. I am a proud women’s officer and have championed the sexual consent workshops in my college. But right now, the main thing I am, is ashamed.

Feminism was born out of the fight for equality, against misogyny. That’s great and obviously right, but I’ve got a quick question.  Has anyone heard of the saying that  two wrongs don’t make a right? Centuries of being discriminated against are not healed with hate and inconsideration.

Men: allies not enemies.

Men: allies not enemies.

We are bigger that the oppressors of our past. Feminism is not man-hating. And to be quite frank, that’s the image that a lot of us are putting out right now.

Not what feminism is about.

We are asking – no, demanding, as is our right – equality from the world around us. This is something to be celebrated. But in striving for a fairer world, let’s not focus on this whole thing as two sides. Men might be from Mars and women might be from Venus, but can someone not also be black on these planets? Where do the Asians hang out? Are the trans people chilling out on Pluto? And, most pertinently, to current Cam-centric journalistic events do we, on Venus, have no sympathy for individuals who are similarly mistreated by a few thoughtless ‘Martians’?

I am, of course, referring to the article in Get Real that pointed out that gay men face discrimination that is, in some ways, similar to that faced by women.  A number of people were vocally unhappy.

Offensive stuff.

I would like to turn this situation on its head. Imagine that a male reader did not like the calls of a harassed women. She felt discriminated against and unsupported. She reached out to men to ask them, even though they are not women like herself, to support her and stand up for her because it is her right as a person, to be treated with respect. Imagine if this male reader turned around and said to her, ‘actually, nah, we won’t treat your issue as legitimate and encompass it in the greater struggle for equality’.  You’re so ‘depressingly omnipresent’.

Imagine furthermore, that not just one, but an entire group of these men then gang up together and continuously and aggressively slur this woman, who has written about an issue clearly very personally important to her, calling it ‘a pile of steaming shit’. This would be sexism. This would be abhorrent.

We would join together in outrage decrying the patriarchy, male-entitlement, pig-headedness and archaic male repression of women. All Hesham Mashhour has had is continued insults and quiet acceptance from the rest of the community that he probably deserved it.

The lack of inclusion of female homosexuals in the topic was cited as an issue. There is definitely a story there. An important one. But it just wasn’t in his article.

It’s not like he was saying this doesn’t matter.

Hesham is LGBT+ doncha know. I’m sure he’s amply aware that queer women exist. He may have even met one or two. The simple fact is that the article is not about them. It is written from his perspective as a gay man, about the issues he faces. What is wrong with this?

Omission is not evidence of disbelief. He also hasn’t mentioned what it may be like to be gay in another country, or a woman in the past or a trans person in the here and now or, I don’t know, smarties vs M&Ms. It’s simply not about it.

A feminist is not required to mention every combination of woman and overlapping identities – be it black or Jewish or whatever –  in something she writes so why are we annoyed that this piece hasn’t included a discussion of queer women?

When I open up a student journalistic site, I’m looking for an article, not a thesis.

To those who feel ‘sexuality policed and insulted’ by Hesham’s responses to their outpourings at him? Well, to my mind, that’s exactly what THEY’RE doing and, in the petty and personal vein that those who criticized his article have favored, I say, ‘you started it, honey’.

Now to a more serious and, to be quite frank, sad note. A response to Hesham’s article agrees that ‘both women and queer men face discrimination at work, lack of positive media representation and the threat of violence in public spaces’. Let’s stop there. This is all Hesham is saying.

Not claiming to be a woman.

His phrases are clear: ‘like women’.  And at the end: ‘I’m not female though’. It couldn’t be clearer.

Gay men like Hesham, the writer of the piece, are not making a claim to be woman. But they are making a claim to suffer some of the same problems that we do. This is fair. It doesn’t detract from the magnitude of women’s own past repression and the continued importance of our drive for equality.

Feminism is a proud and beautiful and right ideal. But it does not stand alone. It is one facet of the idea that all people are equal and deserve to be treated as such. So, as feminists, let’s remember this. Let’s not try and claim problems as ‘our own’.

Don’t sink to the level of the Tab.

Discrimination is discrimination and sexual harassment is sexual harassment regardless of whether someone has a vagina and a compulsion to shout about it as a defining feature of their personality.

Some of us like bras for support and we can like men as friends, partners and fellow humans so for God sake let’s stop trying to burn both of them!

When someone who’s been treated unfairly in a thoroughly un-feminist way asks the question – ‘Who will stand up for me?’ – I damn well think we should be shouting: ‘US’.