What happens when your abuser is woke, queer and a radical feminist who shares safe spaces with you? Do you call them out on their shit and If you’ve done so, what was the reaction from your community? Did they label it is as a ‘personal’ issue the two of you needed to solve and then went on to pretend they dealt with it? Did these identities, complex and intricately intertwined excuse their behavior? I feel like these interrelated issues of sexism, internalized misogyny and homophobia in queer circles are so rampant that it’s unsurprising that women, trans people and gender non conforming persons are abused physically and emotionally by fellow activists with whom they work with on various projects, people who then, in turn, take to social media to passionately defend the rights of queer persons, very similar to the ones they abuse. I know of relationships in activist spaces where physical and emotional abuse is talked about in hushed tones because all of a sudden, it’s something that is happening amongst us.
It really saddens me that when victims try to speak about the abuses they go through at the hands of ‘woke’ individuals, they will be shunned within their circles: some being told to get over it, focus on “real” misogynistic assholes like prominent political figures that blatantly disrespect queers while others will tell them to not let their ‘personal problems’ get in the way of ‘doing work’.
“How safe is safe?”
This is a question most of us ask jokingly when we are with heterosexual people. Often times, it comes out as dramatic and a bit exaggerated but thinking about it, I am realizing that it’s valid and very necessary. How safe are spaces that are exclusively queer? I know a lot of us want to believe that activist queers really are different from the patriarchy and violence apologists we confront in our daily lives. We want to have some faith that this lesbian who takes to the internet write a blog on sexism is not writing it just to make herself look good, to get laid or to cover up some of her extremely dangerous practices towards other queer women. We want to believe it is because she truly believes in queers being respected in their entirety. We want to believe that if a feminist makes an unwarranted advance towards a lady or physically/sexually assaults an activist woman, it would promptly and thoughtfully be dealt with by organizations and communities they belong in. We want to think their organizations or circles are not so easily enticed by the skills that these activists brings to a project that they are willing to let women be abused or have their recovery go unaddressed in exchange for their ideas.
We would like to think that “security culture” in activist circles mainly focuses around how to deal with misogyny, patriarchy and heterosexism both outside of and within the activist scenes.
How about activist women who troll safe spaces like predators looking for women they can manipulate or fuck without accountability? Like abusive priests, these women literally move from group to group, looking to recreate themselves and find fresh meat among those who don’t know them. How about activist women who give their labor and skills to other women (often times, holding positions higher than them) in hopes that the abusive activist woman will finally get her act right or appreciate her as the human being she is?
You know what’s sad?
The amount of support abusive activists find from other activists. Not only do victims have to confront and negotiate the presence of their abusers in activist circles, they must usually do so in a community that rants too much but in the end could give a shit about the victims’ emotional and physical safety.
How many times do you have to listen to women’s stories of abuse being retold by activist women in a hostile manner, using a voice that is snide, accusatory and mocking? A voice which makes the victim seem like she is lying?
Their tone always reveals an attitude that assumes that if these women take issue with them, they are “crying abuse” to cover up hidden sexual desires and anger over being rejected by these women who “won’t fuck them.”
It’s sad that women’s physical and emotional safety is of little concern to queer activist groups.
When the issue is “addressed,” more often than not attention will be given to “struggling with” the other or probably having “beef” with the her instead of this woman being hurt.
The woman will always be labeled ‘unstable’, ‘crazy,’ ‘too emotional’ or a ‘bitter ex.’ People would prefer to help a cold, calculating bastard who can ‘keep it together’ while she abuses women rather than deal with the reality that abuse can contribute to emotional and social difficulties among victims as they work to become survivors.
All in all, these so called safe spaces aka activist groups for queer women are no safe space at all.
Queer women, even among their fellow women still live in fear of being abused because misogynists and abusive women exist and thrive within us. They feed of our silence as women.
These abusers use the language, tools of activism and support by other activists as means to abuse women and conceal their behavior.
At the end of the day, hurting at the expense of activism isn’t it tbh. Fuck being able to keep a conversation about women’s rights going on. Fuck abusers playing the victim. Fuck the silence that is caused by either fear or shame.
We are being abused in spaces where they ought to feel safe and thrive in and it is not funny at all.
Written by Nyar Afrika in 2017
Reposted in 2021 for kisumu feminists society