« Feminism is a global political movement to challenge and change women’s subordination to men. But time and again we hear people say that feminism is just about women making their own choices, regardless of what those choices are, or what bumpy, un-level playing field they make those decisions in. We are told that practically every woman who wakes up in the morning and makes a decision is a feminist, or those who have jobs, or money. While indeed it is true that any woman can be a feminist, feminism has to mean something, otherwise it risks meaning nothing.
We must remind people that ours is a political movement, it is serious. It is not about a trip to the health spa, a flattering trouser suit or a pole-dancing class. Our politics are literally about life and death. Two women every week in our country are murdered by a violent male partner, who on average will serve around four years in prison. One in four women are victim to rape in their lifetime, while only one out of every twenty reported rapes result in a conviction. Because we are feminists we do not believe that nineteen out of every twenty women who report rape are lying. Because we are feminists we do not believe that the rape crisis in our country is the amount of false reports, because we are feminists we believe women and we join together in our movement to demand justice. »
Finn Mackay, 23 October 2010
- Chitra Nagarajan
- Virginia Heath
- Rahila Gupta
- Lindsey Hills
- Ann Rossiter
- Jill Radford
- Vera Baird
- Hilary McCollum
- Cynthia Cockburn
- Leila Alikarami
- Katherine Ronderos
- Anna Fisher
- Finn Mackay
Reclaim The Night, 2009
Finn MacKay, Reclaim the Night 2009
Congratulations RTN 2009. You have taken back the night in solidarity with women who have also marched tonight in Grenoble in France, in Rome in Italy and in Newquay in Cornwall. And they have sent their greetings to our march here in London.
Thanks are due to all the women who worked to organise the march this year. In particular to Jess, Chitra, Jennifer, Gemma, Julia, Katie and Becca. Thanks to our signer Kate. To the fantastic drummers, all the way from Glasgow, Sheboom. To all the women who stewarded this year. To the men who helped by setting up this venue and in particular to Adrian. Thank you to our Trade Union sponsors the NASUWT and Unison, to the NUS, BECTU, NUT and all our TU comrades.
And thank you to all of you, over 2000 marchers from all over the UK closing down London to say no to violence against women in a great show of strength for our UK Women’s Liberation Movement. There is a resurgence of feminism in our country and beyond. Towns and cities everywhere are setting up their own Feminist Networks and organising their own RTN’s. Change is afoot in our country. The women’s movement is on the march once again!
Why is this happening now? Because we are stirring up a backlash against the backlash. And what is that term, the backlash is a pre-emptive strike against women’s success before it was won, a reaction from patriarchy to the wins of feminism, a kickback against the threat to the status quo that our movement continues to pose.
In this environment there are many lies told about our movement, many myths about what it stands for, and what it was when last at its height in our country in the 1970’s and 80’s. And those who have only heard these lies, can be resistant to even the word ‘Feminism’. They will say we should think of a new one to replace it because it puts people off. But those who understand the potential offered by Feminism at that time, who recognise the achievements of the 70’s and what it means for us now – say in return, that yes we are Feminists and we are proud to be so. That there was nothing wrong with it then, there’s nothing wrong with it now and all we have to do is finish the job.
And in this great movement that we have inherited we continue to move forward and like our sisters who went before us we continue to make wins of our own. And for many years to come women will look back on what we achieved this year with our historic win on clause 13 in the Policing & Crime Bill. For the first time the eyes of the law will be turned on those who fuel the demand for women and children in prostitution. This shows that laws can be changed, that history can be made, that the future can be re-written for the better.
Not surprisingly, this has not been the story in our media, as they are more obsessed with the recent outing of ‘Belle Du Jour’.
So – Dr. Brooke Magnanti, aka ‘Belle Du Jour’ we are sorry you had to fund your education through prostitution. We are sorry that it is prostitution that has made you famous, rather than your studies in science and medicine. And we invite you to join us – in campaigns for the return of the student grant, for free education and for a world where all women are worth more than what some man is willing to pay for them.
Tonight you have marched for all women. For the right to live free from fear. You have marched to demand justice for all those that have survived the crimes of rape, of sexual abuse and assault, of forced marriage, of domestic violence. And you have marched for the many, who did not survive. And so for all those women who didn’t make it, we cannot lose heart. For all those women who lost hope long ago, we must carry it for them.
We must ensure that every woman knows of the existence of our movement, knows that it grows bigger every day. Regardless of her views or opinions on feminism. Because of all the many great things that feminism is, at its most fundamental, at its most relevant to all those women who have survived the crimes of male violence or been touched by them, at even its very least, feminism still stands as a worldwide movement of billions of women that says we believe you. It is not your fault. No woman is ever to blame for men’s violence.
And in many ways we are all survivors. We are all of us survivors of a system that has beaten us down with words, that has assaulted us with images, that has failed us with lack of expectation, with poorer schooling, with lower pay. We call it patriarchy.
And because of it there are all too many women out there who do not believe in them selves, let alone in a movement of women. And it is our job to change their minds.
We don’t need to know how to look good naked. We need the right to be equal with our clothes on. We need to build a society that values us as more than just our bodies.
The New Year will of course bring many new challenges. Here we are on the brink of an election, with the fascist BNP canvassing for your vote. Our world leaders about to agree to indecision in Copenhagen, while climate change and the destruction of our environment continues unabated. And as feminists these are our issues because there can be no freedom while our sisters continue to pay the price for the profits of patriarchy. Around the world it is women and children who are the first to die in wars, the greatest number of refugees, the most who starve in need of clean water and food while governments, including ours, invest in killing and tools of killing. We must educate ourselves on these issues and work in solidarity with those active on them. Because Feminism is for everyone. Ours is a revolutionary movement, self critical, self reflective and progressive. We have made the links between racism and sexism, between militarism and masculinity, between homophobia and misogyny and we are all the better for it. And together we must continue to learn and grow because this is the strength of our movement. This is why we will win.
Do not flinch in your idealism. Never give up. Know that you are part of a proud movement with a great history and an even greater future.
Why Feminism? Because you’re worth it!
Finn MacKay, 2008.
Five years of taking back the night! Five years of marching together to shout a loud NO to rape and male violence. Thank you for putting your feet on the streets for women, for closing down London, for our issues, for once!
Thank you very much for coming tonight from all over the country. Coaches, from Birmingham. Groups from Liverpool, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester. Thank you for marking the International Day to End Violence Against Women with us here in the capital on our fifth revived national Reclaim The Night march.
Big thanks are due this year to our Trade Union sponsors and supporters – to the NASUWT for sponsoring this venue. NUT and Unison for their continued support and to all our Trade Union comrades. Thanks are due also to all the individual women and groups around the country who have given out flyers, organised transport, forwarded emails, stuck up stickers, spread the word, brought friends and made this event the great success it has been.
Thanks to the women on the organising committee who have put a year’s worth of work into making tonight happen – Jennifer, Ashley, Julia, Kate, Becky, Caroline, Sandrine, Laurie and in particular Becca, for putting 100% into this event every year. Thanks also to our signer Kate, to the men’s group who held their vigil in support of our march and to the men who have organised this rally venue tonight, and in particular to Adrian.
We have marched tonight because we still have to. We have marched together tonight as women because we have a struggle to win and each of you knows it. We live in a society where all of us, in all our diversity, know what it is to live with the fear, threat and reality of male violence. Some of us live with this when we walk home at night. Some of us live with this in our workplaces. Some of us live with this in our homes and families. It is a shame on our society that there an estimated 80,000 rapes every year, over 300,000 sexual assaults – and meanwhile, a rape conviction rate that stands at the lowest it has ever been, one of the lowest in Europe at only 5.3%.
We are living in a society in backlash. By that I mean a backlash against the successes that women have made. Successes that were gained by our sisters who have gone before us. Indeed, nothing that we take for granted now, was ever given to us, nor was it easily won. The fact that we can vote, that we can get a formal education, that we can work, that we have access to safe and legal abortion, that we have laws against domestic violence, FGM, rape in marriage. All the gains we have made have been secured against all the odds. And the climate we are in now is no easier, nor will our successes be any easier gained. For we still have much to win. And increasingly, what we are fighting for are our most basic of freedoms, and the battlegrounds are being drawn across our very bodies.
Everywhere we go, we see ourselves demeaned and objectified in magazines, on billboards, in our media. We see ourselves for sale on our high streets and in the small ads of local papers. We see our young people increasingly sexualised. We see the so-called “sex industry” normalised as a career choice for our daughters. Is this the price we are expected to pay for making relatively tiny advances in formal employment, for closing the pay gap by fractions, for clinging on to the very basic and restricted rights we have to abortion when we need it, for being seen in positions of power, for daring to take up public space? Well we never agreed to this trade-off. And we will not sacrifice our basic rights, nor our dignity and humanity to any backlash.
For we are involved in a liberation struggle and that means we don’t stop until we get there.
We know it won’t be easy. Everywhere we look we see signs of that. This year alone women will have spent over £1 billion pounds on plastic surgery. According to some surveys up to 63% of girls would rather be glamour models than doctors or teachers. Pole-dancing is considered a good way to get girls into PE. There are more licensed lap dancing clubs in our country than Rape Crisis Centres. Less than 1 in 10 Local Authorities have support services for women involved in prostitution. One in 3 Local Authorities have no women’s refuge at all, for those fleeing domestic violence. And whether we like it or not, this has happened on our watch. But it sure as hell doesn’t have to happen in our names.
And you have made that clear tonight. You have withdrawn your consent. By marching together as women, for all those who have paved the way and for those that can’t be here. You have marched for the 2 women every week murdered by a violent male partner. For the 1 in 4 women who are raped, for the 5000 young people prostituted on our streets tonight as every night. For our sisters around the world who represent the poorest of the poor, those most displaced by wars, those without education, those most affected by environmental destruction. You have marched not to speak for these women but to speak out for them. And in so doing you have sent a message to those who would silence us, to those who would keep us in the home where we are actually most at risk. You have said, we know. We know that it is always safer to resist.
A few years ago the End Violence Against Women Coalition held a reception for the survivors of male violence and the families of those who have lost their lives to male violence. At this reception many of the guests expressed surprise that there was such a movement around the issue of men’s violence against women. They had no idea that so many women, so many groups and organisations were working tirelessly to make sure no other family, no other woman went through what they had. Now, we may not be able to stop male violence against women overnight, but we can change this. Right now.
We can make sure that every woman knows that there is a place for her, that there is a movement for her that needs her to be part of it. We need Feminist Networks in all towns and cities, we need to link with our sisters and brothers internationally who are involved in similar struggles.
We need to build on our proud movement, on our history, so that in another 5 years we will be able to say: look where we are now. Look how far we have come. Look what we have done for women.
And so to those who think that the women’s liberation movement in this country has been and gone, I would say think again. For we have merely been re-grouping. And new women have been finding us, and finding their voice.
And tonight you have raised your voices. You have stopped traffic, just as we will stop violence against women. You have closed down the streets of the capital, just as we will close down those institutions that try to repress us. You have taken back the streets, just as we will take back our movement from those who would package it up and sell it to us. As if it can be found in ‘Miss Naked Beauty 2008’. As if it can be found in a new magazine, a new diet or a cosmetics company. NO!
No, our liberation will not be found there and we will not be fooled. It is up to those of you who know this truth to shout it louder than ever before, so that all women can hear it. Join us. And ask yourselves this: Are you the generation that will finish what our sisters started over 30 years ago? Are you ready to win our longest revolution?
You have taken back your night and you have won the day. Now reclaim your right, to a movement of our own. Thank you very much for coming, see you on the front line.
Speech Finn McKay, Feminism in London, 2009
What a great day! It is very difficult to close such a gathering, to follow all the amazing speakers and workshops that we have benefited from.
The first thing I have to do is to thank all the amazing women who have organised this event. They have spent a year working on this and done a great job. So please stand up and be recognised by your sisters for what you have achieved: Amtojh, Laurie, Chitra, Sally, Esther, Alice, Jennifer, Yasmin. And the group wanted me to say special thanks to Anna Fisher, for the 110% she put in this year, to making sure this event was a success.
We also need to thank all the volunteer stewards and of course Kate for keeping the day together and on schedule.
Give them all a round of applause.
We are gathered here today of course in very turbulent times. Our planet is in crisis, global capitalism has imploded. And as usual, it is the poorest people who pay the biggest price; and are doing so again, here in our country as we deal with yet another inevitable recession. Many of our sisters and brothers have lost their jobs, their homes. And in such uncertain times it is often the rights of those most oppressed that are first to go. Our rights as women have come into question. Is this the proper time for equal pay? Can we afford rape crisis centres? What does it say about our society when our basic rights are considered a luxury? When our equality is seen as a privilege for the good times only?
What an insult; to all those women: mothers, partners, carers, who hold up families, communities, our society. To the women: who always work hardest in the bad times. Taking two or three or more jobs, providing for their families and dependants. Or leaving University with qualifications as good as ‘the next man’ yet having to compete for scarce jobs that now more than ever will be saved for ‘the best man for the job’.
It is true that equality is not cheap, and neither are we. Our rights are not cheap, our citizenship is not cheap, our humanity does indeed come at a price. And we are here to claim nothing less than those rights, whatever the cost. Because for too long we have paid a heavy price, while our oppressors have profited from our labour, our minds, our bodies; and have built their empires literally on our backs, have raised themselves up, by beating us down. Patriarchy shapes us and leaves its mark on all of us, and we are all survivors of it. The inequalities of this system manifest in women’s bodies. They are made real in blood and bruises and tears while we count the numbers – the 1 in 4 women in our country living with domestic abuse, the at least 40,000 women who are raped every year; most of whom will never see justice. Or the women in our prisons – over half of whom are survivors of domestic abuse, a third survivors of sexual abuse and over 60% of them, mothers of young children. And of course the most final statistic is the body count, of the 2 women every week in our country, who are murdered by a violent male partner.
Now more than ever we need our women’s movement and the women’s movement needs you. Not least, because history shows us that in recession, nations turn to the right; looking for scapegoats, looking for anyone to blame but those whose pursuit and mishandling of power created the situation in the first place. And such times are dangerous times for women, for all women, and especially so, for women of colour, for women seeking asylum in our country, for women raising children on their own, for poor women. And in these times we need a women’s movement to stand up for us, to fight for our rights. And we also need this movement to lead the way, to speak out for all those oppressed by these systems that we did not create. For our sisters and brothers of all backgrounds, for our environment that we all share, for the living creatures that we share it with. We must make sure that our movement marches on the bridges we build between each other, between different groups, between our allies in different countries and across the world.
And that is why you will see a variety of groups represented here today who are working on all of these issues and many more. Groups campaigning against militarism and for peace, for equal pay, for refugees and asylum seekers, against racism, for the environment and animals, for children. Everywhere you will have looked around our conference today you will have seen women leading the way for social justice, for peace, for a different and better world, not just for ourselves and our own issues, but for the benefit of the whole of society.
And so I hope that today you have learned about new groups and that you will become involved with some of the organisations you have met here. Become change makers in your own families, communities, in the world. Spread the message that Feminism is back!
For how is it that we have allowed our movement to be so denigrated for so long? That we have allowed the proud name of our Women’s Liberation Movement to become a joke, for the title of our politics to become an insult – where Feminism is a dirty word? We are portrayed as humourless, as prudish, as backward – in a world that reduces us to objects, that finds entertainment in our rape and abuse, that tells us we have it all, while trying to reduce us to so little. What our great postmodern society is trying to hide is that there is, in fact, nothing new about the oppression of women. There is nothing new about the objectification of women or the selling of women’s bodies. Unfortunately, this has been the status-quo for centuries. And so in fact, it is us who are radical, it is our movement that is pushing the boundaries, challenging the norms. It is up to us to tell these truths, and while our movement is so misrepresented it is up to us to represent it; against all the lies.
Lies, like those told to us, the ones that we have all survived. That we were lesser, that we were nothing, that what we look like is more important than what we think, what we know, what we do.
Lies like those told about all the teenage women here, all the women in their 20’s. You are the main target of much of our misogynist media and advertising and you are also represented in our media and culture in ways that are usually not positive for you, that are far from inspirational, that do not even begin to describe who you are and who you can be. And then, to add insult to injury you are often blamed for this very situation, as if you yourselves designed ‘Playboy’ merchandise, as if you yourselves are making money from sales of ‘novelty’ pole dancing kits.
And perhaps the greatest lie: that you are the generation that has sold out Feminism. How wrong, to use the term sold out, when the backlash has been sold to you; when all you are given to sell is yourselves. It is not you who have sold out, for we have nothing to gain, and have gained nothing, from the backlash against us. Which takes our movement, takes the language of our liberation, turns it on its head, and sells it back to us. That is not our liberation. Liberation does not look like ‘Playboy’, it does not look like ‘Spearmint Rhino’, it does not look like ‘size Zero’, it does not look like Gok Wan.
Yes, it is a lie that you are the generation that has betrayed Feminism, when all around me and all over the world I see young women resisting, against all the odds, women succeeding, women winning.
That is what liberation looks like!
And just as the last decades have proved what Feminism can do, so will you, and I for one can’t wait to see what you are going to do with the next 30yrs.
And although the backlash against our movement is fierce, we must take this as a compliment. You have to push hard against this system before you are noticed, it is only when power is threatened that those who hold it will bother kicking back. And so, you know what they say, if it aint hurting it aint working! Once, we posed a real and present threat to the status quo, and we will do so again.
This is a great time to be a Feminist!
On behalf of the London Feminist Network I’d like to thank you all for coming and for being part of today, and we hope to see you all again on Saturday 21st November in central London to Reclaim The Night against rape and all forms of male violence against women. This year our march will be led by Europe’s largest women only drumming band, ‘SheBoom’, 50 drummers all the way from Glasgow – so you won’t miss us! We need your help to make sure our voices are heard over the drums!
Lets close down the streets for women. Lets send a message to all those rapists and abusers who unfortunately may never see justice served, let them know, in the strength and visibility of our movement; that they have not broken us, that they can never stop us. Lets send a message to all our silent sisters, carrying their abuse and their history like shame; let them know, in the strength and visibility of our movement, that they are never to blame for men’s violence and that we always believed them.
March for your sisters, your friends, your daughters, march for yourselves. March for our movement.
Thanks very much, see you at Reclaim The Night on Saturday 21 November 2009.
Speech of Rebecca Mott, Feminism in London, 2009
This is the text of Rebecca Mott’s speech on the What’s wrong with prostitution?” panel at Feminism in London 2009.
This is dedicated to Anthony Mott, my father, who died in January 2009.
I was shocked and amazed to be asked to speak by Feminists in London. This is because it is rare that exited prostituted women to be given a voice in the public arena.
I speak as a prostituted woman – not as a sex worker, not as a happy hooker. I will speak of some of my experiences. For my reality was not rare, but rather it was a common tactic of the sex trade to control prostituted women and girls.
To understand the reality of that time, I need to take you back inside who I was then.
I want you to imagine that you were me. Do not think of it happening to someone far away. Do not view the reality with detachment or with pity. Imagine being so dead inside that you cannot care what happens to your body.
Know that, and begin to know what is wrong with prostitution.
Imagine being 14-years-old. Not a happy 14-year-old, no she was dead long before she enter the sex trade. Imagine her standing in a queue waiting to enter a club. Not a normal teenage club, no a club where after midnight under-aged girls get in free. Not a normal club, no it is where men ten, twenty and thirty years older than the girls, they sit separate and just stare at the girls. Not a normal club, as the girls sit by the bar, not being allowed to talk or move.
Imagine you are there. Tell me you would not block out reality. You would refuse that you are being prostituted. No, you are young, you do not see beyond the free drinks. You learn to pretend that it is sophisticated.
Only let’s see who those men really were. Let’s see what this club was catering for.
To see that, I must take you back to my first night in prostitution. Know that this was just the beginning of many years of prostitution.
Know that although I may of exited when I was 27, the torment of being prostituted has never left me. Exiting is a lifetime journey, not a destination. I exited because I was slowly learnt to care about wanting to live, and once that seed is planted into your head, prostitution becomes unbearable.
Know that the violence becomes so common that it all folds into one mass. There are no soft ways to know that time.
That is what is wrong with prostitution.
To know that time, you must know what it is to live in a body that does not belong to you. Even before being prostituted, you had been mentally and sexually abused in your own home. You had learnt that your body belonged to others – others who treated your body as their personal sex-toy. Know that having feelings was a luxury that you could not imagine. All that was before you were prostituted. Then you have become the type of girl that the sex trade wants. For then, you will be easy to brainwash and manipulate.
To know prostitution, you must enter some very dark places. On that first night, I was gang-raped. That was the test to see if I was suitable material for prostitution. When I say I was gang-raped, it was many gang-rapes over several hours.
Imagine queues of men raping you everywhere, inside every hole in your body. Imagine that it seems endless. Imagine that you go in and out of consciousness.
Then imagine that you don’t, cannot care. Haven’t you learnt long ago, that your body is there to be damaged. That you have no right to say no. That your purpose is to service men in any and every way they can think of.
That is what is what is wrong with prostitution.
Prostitution is where any man can perform their porn fantasies on real women and girls. In my life, my body was forced into whatever was fashionable with porn. I knew “Deep Throat”, without seeing one clip. I knew as I was chocked, I knew as I was made sick, I knew as I lost consciousness. I knew as johns forced their penises to the back of my throat.
Anal sex is a constant in porn. Johns love it because it is unnessacary, and often causes the woman or girl a great deal of pain.
Imagine being forced against the wall, legs together, hand on your throat – then you are anally raped. That is the kind of thing that many johns think they have the right to do.
That is what is wrong with prostitution.
Johns know that they can do any violence to prostituted women and girls – knowing that the majority of our society will refuse to care.
After all, it cannot be rape if the man has paid for it. I so would love that this view was just came from the users and producers of the sex trade. No, it is a common view of the Left and too many feminists. This excuse makes any and all violence done to prostituted women and girls invisible, or of very little importance.
It is so much easier to speak of happy hookers or sex workers. Speak of women who appear in charge of their own working environment. Do not see or speak of the reality, where the vast majority of prostituted women and girls are traped by the sex trade.
By refusing to see the constant violence that is prostitution, feminists and the Left are betraying a whole mass of women and girls.
As an exited prostituted woman, I have often felt incredably let down by feminists choosing to ignore the mental, the sexual and the physical torturing that is prostitution. Instead, too many feminists will believe the illusion spoken by sex workers of making the work environment safer. There no speech of having basic human rights. All talk of abolition as an long-term plan is blocked out.
This is an abandonment of prostituted women and girls.
If feminism is serious about tackling male violence, it must listen and hear the voices of exited prostituted women. Do not speak over their voices. Do not say that they are misguided about their own realities. No, learn to listen with a open mind.
After all, these are women have been raped on an industrial scale. They have known of sexual torture, they know the lies that men tell to make their violence invisible. They know what it is to live with violence so long that they had to lose all feelings.
Prostituted women and girls are on the coal-face of male violence.
That is what is wrong with prostitution.
Rebecca Mott, October 2009