There’s been a fascinating spat between Irish feminists and anti-trans English people over the last few days: noticing that the secretive A Woman’s Place speaking tour was coming to Ireland, the Irish feminists promptly wrote an open letter telling the group to sod off:
We can see from your social media posts about your tour and its contents, that your opposition to the GRA is based on the idea that feminist organising and womenâ€™s rights will somehow be harmed through trans inclusivity and organising with our trans sisters. We know this is not true.
The response has been predictably awful, with really abusive posts on social media, jokes about the Potato Famine and other unpleasantness. And while a few people have taken the bait and responded in kind, most of the response to the unpleasantness has been thoughtful, measured and fair minded.
In the first thread, Aiofe talks about the difference between “power over” and “power with” or “power through”:
Power OVER is brittle. It’s the power of divide-and-conquer. The power that is all about ME: my control over you. It about what I can force you to do. It’s the power of patriarchy, class, white supremacy. It’s also the power of the coloniser… [it’s based on the myth of scarcity]…
If the only power you know is power-over, then all you can do is try to get as big a slice of the pie as you possibly can. And then hold onto it with all you’ve got. That’s why it’s so damn brittle: all it wants is to perpetuate itself…Â You want power-over? You build walls. Kick out everyone who doesn’t belong. Take the pie. Hoard the forks, cause you’re terrified of being the hungry one.
That’s where we come to “power with” or “power through”. Instead of focusing on power OVER you to get what I want, this means: power to create, THROUGH the relationships we build and work we do together.
“Power through” is creative. It’s not about me over you, so your ideas don’t threaten me: they inspire me. It’s adaptable: we can support one another and lift one another up, ’cause we aren’t threatened by one another. And it’s EFFECTIVE.
And in the second thread,Â NÃ FhlannagÃ¡in (I hope I’m using the surname correctly here â€“ if not please tell me!) makes some important points about engaging with people who fundamentally disagree with you and why it isn’t helpful to get angry, no matter how justified.
if all folks are getting on the one side is poison dripped in their ears *someone* has to do the hard education work…
there are people doing the dialog work and anything we say that makes that work more difficult hurts us all in the end. And yeah. We’re not gonna be perfect at that. I’m certainly not. But we can be better at it.