Attacks on British journalists Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill have made me feel it necessary to add my voice to those who decry censorship and intimidation. I have just posted this comment on Moore’s most recent article in the UK Guardian.
When the brave and passionate Suzanne Moore wrote in the Guardian that women are expected to look like Brazilian transsexuals, was there a feminist alive who didn’t understand she was referring to the pressure women feel to achieve a level of perfection not found in nature but at the end of a surgeon’s knife? When Julie Burchill, was censored by the Observer for defending her friend and raising hackles in the process, was there a feminist who felt herself served by the suppression of a woman’s voice?
I never gave much thought to censorship until – yeah – it happened to me.
In November I published a book, Sex Changes: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On (St. Martin’s Press), which was extracted in the Guardian, recounting my own and my children’s experiences with a husband and father who decided in midlife he didn’t wish to be either.
When a bookstore near my home attempted to hold a publication party, a mob of my ex’s friends several dozen strong attacked the event and succeeded in getting the bookstore shut down. They said they hadn’t read my book; my ex objected to it, that was enough. Belligerent, itching for violence, they refused dialogue, going so far as to heckle and physically intimidate a friend who identified herself as a lesbian. Does this sound like political activism? Or a fascist mob? They vowed that anywhere I appeared they would set their network in motion to stop me. Presumably Moore and Burchill have been keeping them busy.
A few weeks later, I published an essay about my decision to remain living in a small town after the demise of my marriage on a parenting website. Within moments of its appearance, my ex sent out what one recipient termed a “call to arms” instructing supporters to deluge the site with hate mail and force them to remove the essay. Two days later, the website did so, with a statement sickeningly, scarily echoed by the Observer’s John Mulholland writing that his paper “prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views.” The little American website can boast something in common with a prominent British newspaper: both claimed to be forums for open discussion while ending their readers’ ability to believe it.
My ex ‘s mob gloms instantly onto anything connected to my book, conducting attacks very like those against Moore and Burchill. The explicit aim is intimidation, fear. Suppression: of a personal memoir or political discourse.
Where is the voice of feminism in this? According to Madeleine Albright, “There is a special place is hell for women who don’t help other women.” Will feminists call that place home?