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“He’s sound on economic issues” – Hypocrisy around misogyny on the left

CN: for sexual violence

A Craiglist ad posted on a friend’s facebook account caught my attention the other day.

craigslist ad


I laughed and promptly posted it on my own page. In isolation, it’s funny, and given that I and other feminists regularly have men message us on twitter and facebook asking the most basic googleable questions of us, it wouldn’t be surprising this person exists. It also shouldn’t be surprising that there are a lot of broke feminists and gender studies experts who would happily take on the task of teaching some bloke they never met Women Are Equal 101.

Hell, most of us are doing it for free anyway.

However, it then came to light via a piece by Ruth Graham on Slate yesterday that this was not a mother looking to help her chump of a son out, but a man called Nader Kashani who is well known for harassing women online who concocted a fictional profile in order to make contact with feminists. The Slate read is disturbing. Kashani’s views on rape even more so.

The thing that made Kashani’s Craiglist ad and the Slate piece so remarkable is that Kashani got caught out, and the internet gasped as we all wondered what exactly the motivations were. It’s almost the two year anniversary of the Isla Vista shootings in which Elliot Rogers gunned down six people in retribution for his hatred of women. The conclusions that many came to about Kashani’s motivations and commentary that the whole incident was “terrifying” were certainly not unreasonable. There was too much effort put into it for it to be simply written off as a bad joke.

The thing that struck me about this was the amount of left activists of all genders, who shared the Slate piece commenting on how threatening it seemed. It’s heartening to see people acknowledge that these types of men *are* a threat to women. On the other hand, it was disappointing nobody (that I’m aware of) made the connection between a random dude on the internet posing as someone needing to learn about feminism (or at least representing themselves as not being actively hostile to it) and the men who walk among us posing as feminists or pro-feminist activists that eventually turn out to be abusive misogynists.

Suzanne Lee spoke at the Anarchist Bookfair over the weekend about her experiences in feminist struggle. If you haven’t seen her contribution, you should watch it (Suzanne begins around 23:24 in to the video). She makes the valid point that there were people who couldn’t attend a panel on feminism because they’ve made the decision that they can’t engage because the activist community still welcome certain known abusers in to their circles. I’m not pointing to any one particular group or organisation here, because as far as I have seen this action crosses political differences and factions but a lot of the time it’s common knowledge when someone is “dodgy” but it is women who are expected to be the ones to avoid places and disengage from the situation.

It is a sad reflection on Irish activism that there are women who can’t go to anti-domestic violence demonstrations because the last time they went to one they were faced with their own abuser standing shoulder to shoulder with the others attending – and it certainly wasn’t because they saw the error of their ways. There are men who tried to force their partners to have abortions against their will wandering freely at pro-choice demonstrations. There are men who have been violent towards their partners welcomed in or left in activist circles without comment. Women who are open about their illegal abortions are expected to get on with the work of fighting austerity alongside those who march against them in anti-choice demonstrations. I have literally lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard allegations of rape and sexual assault and domestic violence being made about male activists, and I’ve lost count of the number of times their victims have been branded as “mad” “liars” and “bitter” as a result.. Everyone knows these men are abusers and nobody says so. Meanwhile women quietly leave the room – and their activism as a result – and their abusers revel in the knowledge that these women will likely never engage with the architecture of the state system of courts and justice and they do the same thing all over again. I doubt there are many men on the left who text ahead to a friend or comrade to see if a certain person is at the meeting, demo or event they want to go to. It’s ok to criticise Nader Kashani because he’s very far away, but when a man who harasses or abuses women is in the meeting/ on our demo/ holding our mic everyone else is very quiet.

I don’t have any answers to this. I don’t know how this can be addressed. I do know that this post will be seen by many as an attack on the left, when the “real enemy” is elsewhere, but ultimately there isn’t much difference between a man like Kashani using feminism in order to abuse women and some pseudo-lefty who uses feminist activism in order to perpetuate their own brand of misogyny.

The result is still the same; women being abused.




7 responses »

  1. “Women who are open about their illegal abortions are expected to get on with the work of fighting austerity alongside those who march against them in anti-choice demonstrations.”

    While it’s a vile opinion to hold, I think it needs pointing out that people who are anti-choice are not necessarily dangerous or predators. Similar to someone holds racist views, for most people it stems out of ignorance. We can exclude people like this from working with us, thats understandable and a decision that we could make. There’s also an argument against narrowing movements, and the point that by working with people you are in a better position to influence them.

    On this:
    “I do know that this post will be seen by many as an attack on the left, when the “real enemy” is elsewhere”

    There is nothing remotely leftwing about predators and abusers. They are, and are representative of everything that we fight against.

    • Would you expect people of colour to work with racists in campaigns? Because that’s the logical conclusion of what you said.

      This isn’t about people being dickheads or having shitty politics, it’s about male activists making activism unsafe for women because some of them are abusers etc.

      • “This isn’t about people being dickheads or having shitty politics, it’s about male activists making activism unsafe for women because some of them are abusers etc.”
        Yes this is the main point of the piece which I wholeheartedly support, and I should have been clearer that mine is a side point.

        I completely agree that any form of abuse or intimidation in campaign groups is both tactically flawed and much more importantly morally indefensible. We cannot tolerate situations where anybody feels unsafe, going further we should have atmospheres of mutual support and comradery.
        My point is that attitudes which we perceive to be fundamentally unjust exist on variances. For example someone in a water charges campaign may harbour racist views in that they are supportive of controlled border policies, as opposed to being a vehement xenophobe or fascist. By staking it clearly that people with attitudes which do not fall into line with the most progressive (usually logically and morally coherent) trains of thought are unwelcome, they will feel under attack and that they have encountered an elitist atmosphere of hostility.

        We should recognise that people may be good, but are ignorant and there should be space for them to participate and hopefully grow as people. Labelling people and cutting them off from inclusion at the outset is also selfdefeating and unfair.

        We should tolerate ignorance up to a point. We should not tolerate oppression domination or bigotry ever.

      • What are your feelings towards having feminists that are male abusers standing beside you, or are we to believe that all women are pure and innocent? Surely feminism was born of equality and yet it seems to be dead set on oppressing men and making them out to be abusers.

        Yes of course there are men that are abusers of women, but this really should be balanced out and accepting of the failings of women too.

        Our aims as women should be to make sure that the law takes us seriously and that men that may have got away with abuse in the home for example are convicted and punished, but it should not be about making all women into potential victims and all men into potential abusers. Otherwise we are not acknowledging that men can be abused in the home.

        Don’t forget that men are also Fathers, Brothers, lovers and Sons. Dickheads come in both male and female form.

        • @Kate

          There’s nothing in my piece to suggest that there are no problematic women. I’m simply making the point that there are a lot of men out there masquerading as allies who aren’t.

          You could have saved time by just writing #NotAllMen.

  2. I have had shit experiences within the Irish Left myself. I don’t even want to go into the bones of it, however I no longer want to go to events or get involved in activism. I wanted to go to the feminist talk that you linked above but instead, I had a panic attack in Costa. The thought of walking into a talk, which definitely at least included one person in the audience who completely betrayed me. It was just too much for me to deal with.

    I’m basically living in my house these days, only going outside to get food and very occasionally socialize. I’ve been turned into another female pariah of the left because I dared to embarrass a very influential man by speaking about how I’d been treated and what he’d been saying about other women.

    All I see in the left now is hypocrisy and injustice. The entire community is controlled by such a small group of fucked up men and so many women are just following along. Even people who I thought were better than that are fully willing to lie and downplay things because doing otherwise would mean losing male validation.


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