Once upon a time, there was a radical feminist forum. It was interesting and lively, with lots of thoughtful and stimulating discussion. So I joined.
As with all forums, there were also arguments. And cliques. And moderation. Some of which seemed fair, some of which didn't. Nothing unusual there.
But there was obviously something deeper running. A private disagreement - almost a war - between some of the members and the moderators. And then the board owner closed it down.
So on-line radical feminists needed a new home. Or rather new homes, because a number of new forums started up. One of them was an interim forum, where those of us who were keen to start up a new one discussed what we wanted to see. It was good to take part in the discussions and develop a shared vision.
After a while, it became fairly clear that people wanted to see a democratic community that was in keeping with the principles of radical feminism. No autocratic dictators, or oligarchy. A genuine voice for all the members - elected moderators, an ombudsperson to mediate between members and mods. A hands-off approach. Self-moderation wherever possible in an adult fashion. Voting on new members, and voting on any potential bans. A committee of volunteers to develop policy.
Here are the words at the beginning of one of the new forums, from a keen feminist who was willing to start up some new space (on a domain paid for by her male partner). Rationale: The goal of this website is to offer blamers and other radical feminists a space to discuss, vent, rage, and otherwise consciousness-raise that is relatively safe and absolutely free from the misogyny we face every minute in the "real world." ... I am attempting to manifest my vision of radical feminist leadership.... * decentralized, shared responsibility for leadership and direction * as little hierarchy as possible, leading to flexibility, diversity, multiplicity, and compassion, not just tolerance or acceptance * hands-off moderation on boards hand-in-hand with strong defense of boards against users with ill intent * respect for the independence and intelligence of women * belief in women's good faith and ability to choose for themselves * respect and compassion for the anger, rage, and passion a lifetime in the patriarchy instills in women, feminist or not * radical listening and deep empathy for others, especially women and others oppressed by the patriarchy * a space in which women and radical feminists feel invested, empowered, safe, and free to examine their lives through the lens of feminism without insult
Policy was developed. Rules - a minimum - were established. Volunteers for mods signed up, as did volunteers for ombudspeople. The volunteers for mods became part of a steering committee with a couple of policy volunteers. They had meetings behind Closed Doors in a Sekrit Room. Where they discussed things like the appearance of another radical feminist forum that appeared to be invitation only. Most of these people had not received an invitation to the other one so were rather unhappy. They talked about members behind their backs. And they discussed the direction of the forum without the participation of the community. After voting took place for moderators - these unelected members retained their place on the Sekrit Committee in the Sekrit Room. And despite a pretty clear instruction on the Volunteers for Ombudsperson thread: ....Volunteers for this position should not already be in the moderator pool... one of the volunteers in the mod pool was also allowed to stand for election as ombudsperson. I'm sure it is coincidence that she happened to be one of the admin's biggest sycophants.
Was something rotten in the state of Denmark at this point? I didn't say anything but waited for the outcome of the ombudsperson elections and jointly won the poll. I agreed to go first. I waited to be allowed into the Sekrit Room complete with the non-elected members. It didn't happen. It seemed to me that if I was to be expected to later mediate in the case of any problems, it would be helpful to at least know the history rather than making an arse of myself going in ill-informed.
One of the mods made a decision that was initially supported by the site administrator, but the admin later retracted her support when the unelected members criticised the mod's actions. Not only that, the mod got a public rebuke and a few members weighed in with their comments too. Unsurprisingly the mod initially quit, although later agreed to serve out her term.
The admin decided that she didn't want to keep sending out the boring weekly newsletter on her own and it should become part of mod duties too. So she dumped that on them. One of them objected. Not allowed to object. It is not up for discussion. It is now one of the moderators' duties.
I made the mistake (by PM to the omnipotent admin) of suggesting the OBP could have been involved when someone asked for their account to be deleted. I also asked why unelected members were having a say behind closed doors in the Sekrit Room - whereas, as an elected representative, I was excluded.
These comments did not go down well. It was pointed out that when I was elected I should have foreseen the way things could go and made suggestions about the role of the OBP. Actually no, I didn't think it was my role to get elected and then determine what I thought I should do. The whole principle of having a democratic community was for the members to say what they wanted - not to elect someone for her to suddenly decide to create an all-powerful role.
I did get admittance to the Sekrit Room. But not for long. Less than two weeks after sending my pm to the admin questioning the remit of my role - I was sacked, along with the two moderators. We didn't even get the courtesy of a pm - it was just announced in public.
So let's go back to those first few principles (the bolding is mine) - * decentralized, shared responsibility for leadership and direction * as little hierarchy as possible, leading to flexibility, diversity, multiplicity, and compassion, not just tolerance or acceptance * respect for the independence and intelligence of women * belief in women's good faith and ability to choose for themselves
Wait. I have missed something. Where does it say outright sacking of elected representatives because they question the way things are going? It doesn't. But that doesn't matter. Because this board belongs to one person. And it is run by her, and only her. Way to go sweetheart. Way to go reinforcing the patriarchy lock, stock, and barrel. Given that this woman is not much older than half my age, and so are many of the members who support her autocratic style, it doesn't give me a lot of hope for the younger generation of radical feminists who want to spout idealistic tosh while remaining safely enclosed in a patriarchal hierarchical microcosm of society.
Radical feminism isn't about getting a few equal opportunity measures passed. Or playing at something that is fun and exciting while you are at university. Radical feminism is about dismantling current societal structures and changing them. Radically. Otherwise it wouldn't be called radical.
Fortunately, I do know other younger women, who do not just lie down and take this garbage and do what they are told. While I might have stopped posting on the supposedly radical feminist forum, others haven't. Doesn't do them any good though. One woman was moderated for daring to disagree with the majority viewpoint. She wasn't happy with this and asked if she could appeal against the moderation. NB don't forget there aren't actually any moderators since the sackings four months ago, so the admin is jury, judge and executioner.
Here was the response she got.... It's not up for debate. The complaints of the other member are well justified and more than evident in the ..... thread. If it comes to it, the third strike is when you'll be able to lay out your case and challenge the claims against you. Until we reach that point, if we do, just consider this yet another warning to watch your tone and your attitude while posting. Thanks.
So this is what it has come to. In just over six months, a vision of a shared online radical feminist community is run by an autocratic dictator where any dissent is quashed. Actually it didn't take six months, it only took three - when we were all sacked unceremoniously.
And what is the worst thing? Nobody notices, or if they do, they don't care. Let's overthrow the patriarchy and re-install the same system. Why does this make me think of Animal Farm?
ETA: For a much shorter and pithier perspective on the same issue - check out WhyI'mBitter's Weblog
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