Last night at Theatre in the Mill, Bradford University, I presented this at the “Truth to Power Cafe”, a fascinating platform presented by Jeremy Goldstein of London Artists Projects.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting, but on building the new” – Socrates. I haven’t checked the reference… I downloaded it off Facebook.
Apparently it was Isaac Newton who said in 1675: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”, although the quote is attributed to great men of earlier centuries… and like the Socrates quote, it’s useful.
Great men have said great things throughout history. And her-story has got lost, or come later, or been dumped in the dustbin of history… And when the patriarchy began to intersect with and underpin systems like capitalism, things went from bad to worse.
“We are none of us free until we are all of us free” – Emma Lazarus wrote that in 1882. And 251 years later, in 2133 (that’s 115 years from now), according to the World Economic Forum we’ll have closed the global gender pay gap.
So it’s important this week, marking 100 years since SOME women got the vote in Britain, to say, as the Mary Poppins classic goes, “well done, sister suffragettes”. Thank you Mrs Pankhurst, and thank you too to Germaine Greer and Andrea Dworkin, and huzzah for Rose McGowan. You’ve all stuck it to The Man.
The suffragettes stole power in the age of men. And each successive wave of feminism drew it’s battle lines and fought it’s enemies and won ground, created space.
But still the patriarchy reinvents itself – every single time. And how? Because it is insidious, it is engrained in our culture of entitlement, our morality, our thoughts – it IS power, structurally, systematised. And it is bad for us all.
No, Andrea… Men are not the enemy. They are killing themselves in ever increasing numbers because of the toxic masculinity they are pushed to live down to.
No, Germaine… Trans women are not the enemy. You don’t need a vagina to lack male privilege or to understand what it’s like to be abused because you’re a woman.
Rose, yes you are brave, but check your privilege and listen to the lived experience of those who have given you a platform to represent and be heard.
And, note to self… the SWERFS and the TERFS are not the enemy. (Do I need to explain these acronyms..? Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist and Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists…) They, like all of us, have got distracted, confused… and the power feeds off our distraction.
We polarise and draw our battle lines, online, keyboard warriors, activists of the internet, spilling in and out of live space… the Tories versus the Corbynistas… Trump versus the liberals… Brexiteers and Remoaners… TERFs and trans activists… and in the middle? Kittens and pornography.
I quite like kittens. I also quite like pornography, well, some of it, occasionally. But I don’t want to invest my life in kittens, or porn, or battles with individual people, or even groups of people.
I have a number of privileges to check – and the most important one is that I have a basic income. A universal basic income is essential, obviously – humans need to survive before they can thrive. But even that, whilst I’ll back it with a passion, isn’t the cause I want to champion the most.
What I want to champion is authenticity, is truth.
Power (the structure, the system, the complex intersection of patriarchy and capitalism and white supremacy and all of that nonsense) is, well, nonsense. It only exists because we allow it to. Even the winners lose. I don’t think Donald Trump is actually really very happy.
Power? We perpetuate it. We live inside it’s insidious lies. We target our old enemies and we fight them, and we constantly lose sight of building the new.
What if we all stopped doing what was expected of us?
What if we all listened to our deepest human needs and wants and focussed on loving ourselves, and eachother?
What if we all questioned our own and eachother’s entitlement? What if we just said ‘no’ and let go of all the things that hold us back?
What if we all demanded authenticity, truth, and an enthusiastic ‘YES’ in every single aspect of our lives? And we believed in ourselves and eachother? And we went out and did all that stuff we might do one day?
Deeds not words, said the suffragettes – it was written on Emily Wilding Davison’s tombstone. So get out and do stuff, and fight if you must, but lets not fight eachother… before you die for your cause, live your truth, live it hard, live it well, live it every single minute of every day. If we all did that maybe we’d really change the world.