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The Peacock Festival

The internet is in so many ways a wonderful resource. Social media likewise offers a truly democratic (advertising notwithstanding) platform for people to be heard. But neither are perfect nor are they free from all the shit humans carry with them. In particular the internet seems to foster some traits that are denied by simple real time human interaction, where honesty is a must. Online, people are quick to judge and slow to change, they are also deeply uncharitable refusing to extend the benefit of the doubt in conversation. It is also deeply reactionary. It's a peacock festival, a competition not a conversation.

Last night I got into an online argument with a guy who, like so many, believe they are living in an age where the average male is being oppressed. These are people that use terms like 'social justice warrior' seriously, even though the only purpose behind such pejorative is to stifle the discourse. I am not a 'social justice warrior' - nothing so patronising - I am someone who cares about equality and is aware (or at least trying to become aware) of the relations between groups and their hierarchy within our society.

The bone of contention was the notion that men don't have the freedom or opportunity in society to air their problems and discuss 'men's rights' issues. The reason for this isn't the prevalence of toxic masculine values in our culture (what feminists call patriarchy), it's because the feminists (as if they are a singular, monolithic, hive mind) are stifling every attempt to do so. I simply don't buy this. Certainly there are protests of events where 'men's rights activists' have attempted to hold meetings, inviting individuals with a record of hate speech to attend, under the guise of free speech.

Now look, I'm all for people being able to discuss issues and certainly there are issues that affect genders - largely because of those self same values I mentioned. Male suicide rates can be, if somewhat simplistically, attributed to feelings of failure in not having lived up to one's perceived potential as a male. But these are also issues that feminists care about - even the more strident ones. However feminism is a broad church and, like any movement, has outliers and fringe thinkers. So what? They are not shutting down every avenue that men have to speak - they are protesting occasions where dodgy speakers have been invited to lecture at, for example, a university. That's not a free speech issue either; these people have plenty of opportunities to speak and walking into a university lecture hall isn't one of them.

That said, I endeavoured to find out more about what was happening by asking a reddit forum entitled 'askfeminists', a place I'd been to before with some success. I woke up this morning to find that my question had been deleted, and that I was banned with no explanation. An attempt to find out what the reason for this was, and to allay any suspicion that I might be a misogynist troll, was met with a warning not to contact the moderators again within 72 hours. No explanation, no effort made to interact, no charity offered, just the obvious assumption (presumably) that I am trolling.

And so one avenue of inquiry is permanently closed.

This is also not the only instance of this. I have made similar inquiries of anarchists, in particular in trying to learn about Trotsky on an anarchist forum. I was accused of being a 'trot', though given I don't understand his politics, let alone why they are bad, how can I be? No one would answer because, again, no explanation, no effort, no interaction, and no charity.

This fucking annoys me. I find this intensely frustrating. How can this attitude be anything other than utterly self defeating. Both feminism and anarchism are perceived negatively in the mainstream media: the popular view of the strident harridan feminist or the black bloc student throwing bricks at coppers are the stereotypes de jeur. How on earth are people to change perceptions if, when asked, representatives of these communities not only refuse to engage, but actively disregard those making inquiries as troublemakers?

I don't live in a cosmopolitan area. I live in Toryshire. I live in the sticks in a sea of electoral blue. There's nothing radical or progressive happening here for fuck's sake. Who can I appeal to offline to learn more about these long standing traditions, the ideologies behind them, and the particulars of instances such as I have mentioned. If I can't access the facts then how can I defend against those who criticise these positions that I hold with such tentative knowledge.

Look, I'm anarchist not because I have a long proud history of involvement in direct action and class war, but because I believe that people should be freed from oppressive authorities and hierarchical structures (such as capitalism). They should be able to freely associate on a horizontal not vertical basis, working to render the state obsolete through grassroots activism responding to issues and problems.

And I'm a feminist not because I'm female nor because I held hands on cold grey weekends around Greenham common, but because I recognise that women are not fully equal partners in society. I understand that patriarchal culture, such as we have, is harmful to both women AND men, and that by destroying it and promoting true equality, we all benefit, regardless of gender or sex.

These aren't controversial opinions to me; in fact they are the only hope for our society.

So when I ask you, as advocates with expertise and knowledge, to share that knowledge, please don't fucking shut me out!


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