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Exiting the Vampire Castle

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Fleur
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May 23 2015 15:41

Ed

I agree with you, there's some nasty stuff ricocheting around the radical left (for want of a better way of putting it) especially online. However, I think this is kind of inevitable, there's been a shift in in radical politics and conflicts over this will arise and I think a lot of these fights arise from a sense of jfc, it's 2015 already, why are we still putting up with this reactionary shit? Yeah, it's a bit of a shambles right now but hopefully something better and stronger will grow out of it because a radical left which doesn't fully include and stand shoulder to shoulder with POC, women, LBGTQ people and other groups which have historically been marginalized within the movement isn't worth fighting for.

* I use the word left loosely, because I don't really consider myself a leftist but it's easy and everybody gets it, rather than trying to sling together some convoluted bit of jargon.

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May 23 2015 15:50
Joseph Kay wrote:
DekuScrub3 wrote:
Oh, c'mon Fleur. Even Fall Back admitted the left had a toxic culture.

I think you need to read Fall Back's post again with your sarcasm filter engaged.

I guess I'm just dense. I went back and reread it and the first sentence of Fall Back's post seems to be earnest, while the second is clearly sarcastic.

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May 23 2015 16:02

I used to be Facebook friends with maybe a couple hundred socialists and anarchists on Facebook, but I ended up defriending them and ultimately deactivating my account because it felt like everyone was just constantly under siege, calling each other out. I mean back to that ISN thing, it felt like people were tearing each other apart over ridiculous abstractions like "race play" all the time. There was no room to make mistakes and learn....or even like to exist in the real world with non-politicized people. The divide between my socialist/anarchist Facebook friends and my real world Facebook friends was so vast it was insurmountable.

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May 23 2015 16:09

Maybe Fall Back can clarify.

On 'toxicity', the thing is nobody ever describes rape as toxic. Nobody describes covering up rape as toxic. Nobody describes victim-blaming and slut-shaming as toxic. Nobody describes sabotaging attempts at restorative justice as toxic. Nobody describes rapists using libel threats to silence survivors as toxic. Nobody describes a prominent activist dragging a woman by her hair across the room in front of loads of witnesses as toxic. Nobody describes leftist men calling the cops on feminists as toxic. Nobody describes white men trying to shut down autonomous BME organising as toxic. Nobody describes men talking over everyone as toxic. Nobody describes all white male panels at anarchist bookfairs as toxic.* Nobody has described an ongoing media/far-right hate campaign against a BME student as toxic. Nobody describes holding meetings in inaccessible venues toxic. Nobody describes a chronic lack of childcare provision at 'left' events as toxic. But the moment one person has the temerity to raise their voice against such ubiquitous injustice, up go the cries of 'divisive!', 'social justice warrior!', 'twitter feminist!', 'vampires!' and out come the tedious soliloquies to 'unity'. Like. Fucking. Clockwork.

I think AndrewF's point is pertinent here. The difference with social media is that these hitherto isolated people can find each other and support one another, and actually start making inroads against the above culture. And that's when you get the defensiveness, the cries of toxicity, and the attempts to shut it all down and restore the status quo ante. You don't have to uncritically endorse everything said and done by every feminist on twitter ever to see the disease is orders of magnitude worse than the tentative steps towards a cure.

* someone in the audience did, when I was on one tbf, though not in those exact words.

Fleur
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May 23 2015 16:11

Joseph Kay

Quote:
On 'toxicity', the thing is nobody ever describes rape as toxic. Nobody describes covering up rape as toxic. Nobody describes victim-blaming and slut-shaming as toxic. Nobody describes sabotaging attempts at restorative justice as toxic. Nobody describes rapists using libel threats to silence survivors as toxic. Nobody describes a prominent activist dragging a woman by her hair across the room in front of loads of witnesses as toxic. Nobody describes leftist men calling the cops on feminists as toxic. Nobody describes white men trying to shut down autonomous BME organising as toxic. Nobody describes men talking over everyone as toxic. Nobody describes all white male panels at anarchist bookfairs as toxic.* Nobody has described an ongoing media/far-right hate campaign against a BME student as toxic. Nobody describes holding meetings in inaccessible venues toxic. Nobody describes a chronic lack of childcare provision at 'left' events as toxic. But the moment one person has the temerity to raise their voice against such ubiquitous injustice, up go the cries of 'divisive!', 'social justice warrior!', 'twitter feminist!', 'vampires!' and out come the tedious soliloquies to 'unity'. Like. Fucking. Clockwork.

Well put.

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May 23 2015 16:17

Yeah, I mean I obviously agree with all of what you're saying about all that stuff being toxic, Joseph. And it sounds like you are arguing that a toxic call-out culture is a necessary evil. In which case, I don't know. Maybe I should just take a break from politics. Because I just don't want to exist in that bubble anymore, where I feel like I'm constantly watching my back against nominal "comrades."

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May 23 2015 16:17

Edit: dp

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May 23 2015 16:23

The culture of the left in general is toxic - towards marginalised groups when they attempt to organise in any way that goes beyond that which might be described in a shit 1970s socialist play, where the workers of all colours ~unite together in their common interest~ and the white workers realise they shouidn't have been racist after all.

If the left really has started to move towards being toxic to those who create these barriers, I welcome it.

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May 23 2015 16:36
DekuScrub3 wrote:
it sounds like you are arguing that a toxic call-out culture is a necessary evil.

I didn't mention 'call-out culture', and while there are valid criticisms to make I'm suspicious of sweeping statements of 'toxicity'. There have been numerous cases where someone has sexually assaulted and/or harassed someone, been asked to desist and/or engage in some kind of accountability/restorative process, doubled down and escalated harassment (explicit texts, slut-shaming, gaslighting, threats of doxxing, threats of violence...), leading, eventually over many months, to people giving up and putting out a statement about said person as a warning to other groups. Then someone always goes off on one about 'call-out culture', 'lack of due process', 'kangaroo courts' etc. And that's just when calling the cops on the survivor or threatening to sue them for libel doesn't intimidate them into silence.

I don't pay too much attention to what goes on on twitterstorms, and I don't even know who Suey Park is, and I didn't follow the ISN split (though usually, these things go deeper than the touchpaper issue which ignites the split). So I'm not saying there's never excessive or unnecessary or unpleasant 'call-outs'. There probably are and I've just set up my feed in such a way as I don't see them, or glaze over them, or whatever. But everyone's full of suggestions for what feminists should stop doing about rape, abuse, sexism etc, but pretty silent on what they should be doing instead. This invariably seems to me as bad faith because:

- the threshold for purely destructive criticism is that doing a thing X is worse than not doing it (status quo, SQ), all other things held equal.
- given the endemic problems mentioned above, X would have to be very bad to meet this threshold (i.e. make SQ worse)
- if this threshold is not met, any good faith criticism must be constructive, of the form 'X is an understandable response to SQ, but Y would be preferable to X'

Constructive criticism is a lot harder, because this stuff is hard. It's really difficult to e.g. deal with a sexual assault in a group. The practices that exist are far from perfect. It's far easier to just denounce everyone as bloodthirsty vampires destroying the left, but that just defends the status quo, i.e. a status quo of division, toxicity, and unchallenged entitlement.

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May 23 2015 16:41

A big part of me feels like if we go nuclear over someone having the wrong view on "race play," it's going to be a real wake up call when/if the left ever becomes a mass movement and we discover the significantly more reactionary views most people hold.

Edit: Joseph, started writing this before your most recent one. Agree with everything you said there, I think. So this shouldn't be interpreted as a response.

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May 23 2015 16:42

(Just to be clear, I'm not 'essentialising' Fisher as a bad man or whatever. He's written some really important stuff politicising depression and critiquing neoliberal managerialism. He's just really wrong on his identitarian class politics.)

DekuScrub3 wrote:
Edit: Joseph, started writing this before your most recent one. Agree with everything you said there, I think. So this shouldn't be interpreted as a response.

No worries. With this epidemic of 'call-out spats', I still genuinely don't know if we're seeing different things, or seeing the same things and perceiving them differently, or some combination of the two. If your references are Suey Park and the ISN, quite possibly the former.

boomerang
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May 23 2015 18:47

Disclaimer: I only skimmed this thread and didn't at all read the Vampire Castle article.

Well I have had experiences of speaking out against sexism or racism and being told I was making a big deal over nothing. It drove me mad! I was speaking respectfully, too, even though respect may not have always been deserved with some of the trash I was going up against! LOL

I've seen the same thing happen to others and it drove me mad, too.

I've known a man who went around sexually groping people (mostly women but also groped a man) and when confronted his response was: Lighten up and stop being such a prude!

Talk about toxic!

Call outs are often needed, and some people need it to be a harsh call out or it just won't get through their thick skull!

But yes, call outs can themselves be toxic! I've seen it, and could tell some really, really ugly stories about it.

How big a problem are these toxic call outs? Well that really depends on your social circles. In some circles it's huge. In other circles, it's tiny or nonexistent. How big of an issue you think this is will depend on what social circles you're in. To those in spaces where the issue is tiny or nonexistent, any concern with it probably seems ridiculous.

Well, from other people's responses on this thread, the Vampire Castle article sounds pretty stupid. If it's not I'm sorry.

If you want what's probably a better discussion of toxic call outs, and proof that concern with it isn't just a white thing or a male thing, you can read this post on the blog Black Girl Dangerous by a guest blogger Ngọc Loan Trần:

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/12/calling-less-disposable-way-ho...
Teaser:

Quote:
Facing Race was a gathering of thousands of people working on advancing racial justice. The space was full of energy, commitment, and a ride-or-die-and-put-it-all-on-the-line mentality for making sure we’ve got our bases covered in this fight against racism and dismantling white supremacy.
.
What happens when thousands of people who all “get it” come together and everyone knows something about “the work”? We lose all compassion for each other. All of it.
.
I witnessed all types of fucked up behavior and the culture that we have created to respond to said fucked up behavior.

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May 23 2015 18:22

I think this article on critique drift is good too, and doesn't use needlessly alienating language like the Vampire Castle one:

http://inthesetimes.com/article/17729/critique_drift

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May 23 2015 18:33

As another example....while I'm not a Trotskyist, I was Facebook friends with a lot of ISO members a year ago during that organization's faction fight. And I saw people use call outs in what I thought were pretty disingenuous ways pretty frequently. For instance, this long standing member, Shaun Joseph, was sort of the unofficial leader of the Renewal Faction. Apparently there weren't any complaints about his relationship to women prior to the faction fight. But as soon as he challenged the leadership, all the loyalists started calling him a "mansplainer" and all these other hard to define things in what I thought was a way intended to discredit him. Of course, it's perfectly possible that he was a mansplainer. But it definitely felt like the accusation was used opportunistically.

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=12011

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May 23 2015 19:12
DekuScrub3 wrote:
A big part of me feels like if we go nuclear over someone having the wrong view on "race play," it's going to be a real wake up call when/if the left ever becomes a mass movement and we discover the significantly more reactionary views most people hold.

Do a lot of workers have bigoted and reactionary views? Some do, but that doesn't mean catering toward the bigotry out of a desire to appeal to the most people. In my organizing work, I have had to confront my coworkers' bigoted views and statements - I don't back down from critiquing them, but instead am able to have a constructive dialogue with them because of the relationship that we have developed.

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May 23 2015 19:21
gram negative wrote:
DekuScrub3 wrote:
A big part of me feels like if we go nuclear over someone having the wrong view on "race play," it's going to be a real wake up call when/if the left ever becomes a mass movement and we discover the significantly more reactionary views most people hold.

Do a lot of workers have bigoted and reactionary views? Some do, but that doesn't mean catering toward the bigotry out of a desire to appeal to the most people. In my organizing work, I have had to confront my coworkers' bigoted views and statements - I don't back down from critiquing them, but instead am able to have a constructive dialogue with them because of the relationship that we have developed.

No doubt. But isn't there some kind of prioritization of effort that needs to happen? Ie, should we make sure those already in the far left bubble have the right view on race play? Or work on clearer and more overt reactionary views among the masses?

Edit: anyway, I gotta get off the internet, haha. I'm becoming a shut in.

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May 23 2015 19:44

I think call-outs are probably referring to different things here. If it's behaviour of someone in a group, then getting someone they respect to take the aside and have a word probably makes more sense than semi-publicly humiliating them (though that may be a necessary escalation, I guess). Challenging people on twitter or whatever seems like different thing, especially due to the public and impersonal dynamics. But again, it's surely sometimes necessary. On bad faith 'call-outs', whether in political faction fights or out of a desire to be more radical than thou, these can surely happen, as any given thing can be (mis)applied in bad faith. But I suspect the way to minimise bad faith use is to have robust good faith practices.

The reason the SWP disintegrated over 'comrade delta' wasn't the things he did, but the way the organisation tried to shut down and silence the women and their supporters, which left people no choice but to quit or get involved in a bitter fight (then quit). Basically either a tyranny of tyranny (the SWP's disputes process), or a tyranny of structurelessness (anarcho scene and most movements), leaves little room to work through things in a manner that's both formal and just, and also therefore, no incentives for good faith claims to come forward, no disincentive for bad faith claims, and no means to distinguish good faith from bad faith claims. So strengthening accountability would seem to be the way to go, not (only) attacking inadequate/toxic instantiations of it.

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May 24 2015 10:11
Joseph Kay wrote:
On 'toxicity', the thing is nobody ever describes rape as toxic. Nobody describes covering up rape as toxic. Nobody describes victim-blaming and slut-shaming as toxic. Nobody describes sabotaging attempts at restorative justice as toxic. Nobody describes rapists using libel threats to silence survivors as toxic. Nobody describes a prominent activist dragging a woman by her hair across the room in front of loads of witnesses as toxic. Nobody describes leftist men calling the cops on feminists as toxic. Nobody describes white men trying to shut down autonomous BME organising as toxic. Nobody describes men talking over everyone as toxic. Nobody describes all white male panels at anarchist bookfairs as toxic.* Nobody has described an ongoing media/far-right hate campaign against a BME student as toxic. Nobody describes holding meetings in inaccessible venues toxic. Nobody describes a chronic lack of childcare provision at 'left' events as toxic. But the moment one person has the temerity to raise their voice against such ubiquitous injustice, up go the cries of 'divisive!', 'social justice warrior!', 'twitter feminist!', 'vampires!' and out come the tedious soliloquies to 'unity'. Like. Fucking. Clockwork.

Agree with all this, and I'm not sure how personally I'm supposed to take all these comments, but I don't really get what it's got to do with what I said on the 'toxicity' of the culture on the left, precisely because you know I agree with all this in its entirety.. the point I was trying to make, which I might not have done well, is that there are and have been numerous spats on this website, let alone the wider left both on and offline, which have nothing to do with sexism or racism but are still part of that same toxic culture of accusation, personality issues dressed up as political ones etc etc. This exists across the board on the left and while it's absurd (and cynical and dangerous) of people like Fisher to claim pesky feminists are being divisive for talking about sexism, it's also disingenuous to claim that there are no problems with how it's carried out at all, which you actually say yourself here:

Joseph Kay wrote:
You don't have to uncritically endorse everything said and done by every feminist on twitter ever to see the disease is orders of magnitude worse than the tentative steps towards a cure.

Thing is, while you say you don't have to uncritically endorse everything (though I think it's incorrect to say this is only a twitter thing), when someone who is 100% supportive of intersectionalism (me) says there are elements within the culture on the intersectional left that share the same problems as the rest of the left, it's met with "well, nobody complains about rape in the wider left, nobody complains about covering up rape etc etc".. so it's confusing: on the one hand you don't have to be totally uncritical, but on the other, supportive criticism is responded to defensively..

My point is this: the current culture on the left is aggro, accusatory and often based on personality clashes/loyalties dressed up as politics; no element is immune from it whether discussing Rojava, unions, nationalism, sexism/rape culture within the movement or the finer points of ultra-left Marxism. In all these cases, the people you agree with politically (or who you might even still consider your mates) might still be the ones acting like utter dicks.

If you disagree with that, then cool, but respond to that rather than (as I feel your doing) lumping me in with people who say the culture on the left is toxic because people are starting to try and hold abusers to account..

Fall Back wrote:
The culture of the left in general is toxic - towards marginalised groups when they attempt to organise in any way that goes beyond that which might be described in a shit 1970s socialist play, where the workers of all colours ~unite together in their common interest~ and the white workers realise they shouidn't have been racist after all.

Again, agree, but the thing that cracks me up about this is that I've been saying this to you since your favourite film was Matewan ffs.. wink

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May 24 2015 10:30

Ed, my wasn't really aimed at yours, it's aimed at the disproportionate opprobrium aimed at the 'toxicity' of critics of the status quo, versus the toxicity of the status quo itself. Sorry if it came off as a direct response.

Maybe a good practice for criticism would be to criticise specific things (articles, arguments), rather than the more nebulous 'intersectional left' (or in Fisher's case, the vampire castle). This category would catch everything from class struggle feminists, anti-racists, sex worker activists, to miscellaneous liberals and even the UN. Though I realise 'being specific' can also then approach 'calling people out' if it's specific individuals acting like dicks, rather than a bad argument in an article or something.

So, starting from the position that the status quo is toxic, and being specific in criticism would seem like good rules of thumb (this goes for me too: i'll try and make clear who/what I'm responding to).

Ed wrote:
My point is this: the current culture on the left is aggro, accusatory and often based on personality clashes/loyalties dressed up as politics; no element is immune from it whether discussing Rojava, unions, nationalism, sexism/rape culture within the movement or the finer points of ultra-left Marxism. In all these cases, the people you agree with politically (or who you might even still consider your mates) might still be the ones acting like utter dicks.

Well I agree with that, and I think that's an important argument since it isn't singling out the more marginalised voices as the toxic presence in an otherwise ok culture. And in those discussions, I'm usually as frustrated by the people 'on my side' as those on the other, since it's so often a rehearsal of a priori positions shouted past each other, rather than a dialogue. If I've done that here, I apologise, been having similar discussions across several places and frustration elsewhere may have bled over into my comment here.

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May 24 2015 11:31

Lol, basically, Ed, the frustration was aimed at me, not at you. wink

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May 24 2015 11:36
DekuScrub3 wrote:
Lol, basically, Ed, the frustration was aimed at me, not at you. ;)

you should see the guy on the libcom facebook demanding Bahar Mustafa be imprisoned.

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May 24 2015 15:36
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the point I was trying to make, which I might not have done well, is that there are and have been numerous spats on this website, let alone the wider left both on and offline, which have nothing to do with sexism or racism but are still part of that same toxic culture of accusation, personality issues dressed up as political ones etc etc. This exists across the board on the left

Quote:
when someone who is 100% supportive of intersectionalism (me) says there are elements within the culture on the intersectional left that share the same problems as the rest of the left, [...] supportive criticism is responded to defensively..

Quote:
My point is this: the current culture on the left is aggro, accusatory and often based on personality clashes/loyalties dressed up as politics; no element is immune from it whether discussing Rojava, unions, nationalism, sexism/rape culture within the movement or the finer points of ultra-left Marxism. In all these cases, the people you agree with politically (or who you might even still consider your mates) might still be the ones acting like utter dicks.

Ed, I agree with you a lot here, and that's probably because of what I've witnessed both online and in real life. I imagine there are people here who've never really witnessed such a thing or how it can affect people, so for them it might seem like making mountains of molehills. But I know that at times it can really be bullying, and can tear people up.

Like you say, it's not just limited to disagreements about sexism, racism, etc.

Quote:
I've been saying this to you since your favourite film was Matewan ffs.

Now if you're saying Matewan is not deserving of being a favorite film, I'm gonna have to call you out!

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May 24 2015 15:37

Matewan is a trash film once you realise a significant plot point entirely needlessly revolves around gross rape myths

(I actually like it as a film, but like with Land and Freedom, the shit connected pure fucks me off)

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May 24 2015 15:56

Hm, I don't at all remember anything to do with rape in the film. It's been several years. Too bad it has that shit because it's otherwise really good.

I find though that in order to enjoy pretty much anything in terms of tv or movies, I have to just except that there's going to be offensive bullshit that comes with it and tolerate it. I try to ignore or block out the parts that bother me. Some things will pass my tolerance threshold of course.

It's really too bad that we have to partly dissociate in order to enjoy things.

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May 24 2015 15:57

I'd be able to put it aside better if the politics of the film weren't such a major draw.

(It's how the undercover company man tries discredit Joe)

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May 24 2015 16:42

#notjustmaletears

http://feministcurrent.com/11942/the-internets-grudge-against-suey-park-...

Quote:
“It’s a lot like purity politics in the church,” Park observed, referring to the tendency of Twitter groups to attack perceived wrongdoers. It is, she pointed out, a strategy that works for activists until it turns on them. “You do one wrong thing,” Park said, “and you’re tainted. You’re out forever.”

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May 24 2015 17:22

Megan Murphy has been rightfully criticized for her racism, transphobia, anti-sex worker, radfem views, for being a bully. What is the point of that article, rehashing a stupid twitter fight which happened over a year ago, except to deflect from Murphy being criticized for her bullshit and to portray herself as a victim.

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May 24 2015 18:07

I have no idea about the back story. I was just saying that both Murphy and Park were saying pretty similar things to "the left is toxic" critique in the article. But anyway, I didn't mean to start an argument. It's too beautiful of a day to waste!

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May 24 2015 18:32

As someone thankfully standing outside this cannibalistic subculture, I don't want to get drawn into some firefight festering with bad-faith arguments, nor do I particularly care about content-empty labeling ("SJWs," "radfems," "MRAs," "cis" etc.), but I would appreciate a straightforward answer, without assumptions, to the following:

If some of the main goals is combatting unchecked biases among some monolithic construct of "white males" and fostering solidarity (which absolutely are necessary and legitimate aims), how is at all productive to exclude them from the very discussions and forums which might actually engender mutually constructive face-to-face dialogue with those initiating questions of privilege and related issues? I've come across too many perspectives from minority students skeptical of the concept of "safe spaces" to just assume that there is an automatic, built-in consensus about the usefulness of creating additional barriers and divisions in addition to the very objective ones that cause so much misunderstanding in the first place.

Speaking as a guy here, for what it's worth.

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May 24 2015 18:35

Megan Murphy is the epitome of liberal middle class feminism, has been a vociferous campaigner for Bill C 36 (Canada's new prostitution law) dismissing the voices of sex workers who this law is going to endanger, hosts all sorts of transphobic crap, campaigns on the sort of pointless, liberal issues such as more women on banknotes, banning page 3 and considers all sorts of crap such as women self-objectifying themselves with selfies and footwear as a feminist issue, is anti sex-positive feminism. It's hardly surprising she gets criticized by more radically inclined feminists given the reactionary hogwash she writes.
I would be reluctant to classify Feminist Current as any more a part of the left than the Guardian Life and Style section. At least the Graun doesn't equate female genital mutilation to the oppression of wearing high heels.