The New Matilda published an article today titled “Why Courageous Clementine Ford Is Not The Answer”, presumably Jack Kilbride is The Answer? What is the question, anyway?
The article was… not good. I have no doubt his heart was in the right place, but I doubt whether the point of it was worth publishing. I think if Kilbride wants to call himself a feminist ally that there are plenty of us here who will help him, and welcome him, but that it is important for him to know how he can go about feminist action in the best way he can. This article is not the way Kilbride can engage best practice, and I feel the urge to explain why. It’s not saying anything new, in fact, many of my friends actually thought it was satire, that’s how tired we are of tone policing and ‘mansplaining’ articles. At first, I thought the article had no point, until I came to the daunting realisation that the point is very clear: women need to calm down, lest they set back the feminist movement.
Kilbride starts off his ill-advised Let Me Tell You What You’re Doing Wrong rant without a shred of self-awareness (or historical knowledge, or feminist theory, or…) saying “There are many ways to skin a cat, and just as many ways to re-educate a misogynist”, followed up with, “I am a man and I am a feminist.” In just 30 words, Kilbride has promised us the Answers to The Pesky Patriarchy Problem.
Only problem is, his answer is to further reinforce patriarchal practises. Ugh, and I was so excited, too. It felt like his Feminist Laserbeam was focused and charged up and ready to go, but fired off in the wrong direction, to the disappointment of many NM readers. Perhaps even a firework that’s fallen over. Kilbride’s enthusiasm in trying to help is cool, we guess. But the problem is in doing it without any acknowledgement of the fact that his worldview completely shapes his entire comprehension of what is actually going on, in regards to being a woman online.
Kilbride posits that “The problem with writers like Clementine Ford is although their sentiment is justified, their vitriolic writing style means that people will always get offended.” Which by virtue, is suggesting that politeness and civility are the only ways to get things done. We know by looking throughout history that every revolution was started by someone using their manners and asking very politely, right?
The problem with writers like Kilbride is they don’t acknowledge how their worldview and background shapes their ability to think critically about an issue unless they actively try and fight against that programming. What have you done for us lately, Jack? For Kilbride to show he’s actively fighting against this would be for him to get half way through this article and really ask himself why it bothers him when women get mouthy. Is it because I worry they will get mouthy at me one day? Is it because I’m told to think women should be more submissive? Is it because I, as a man, feel the need to control this debate in tone and content? The lack of self-awareness in the article is supremely disappointing to the point of wondering how it got past (presumably) two people (author and editor) without anyone bothering to ask what the point of the article was, or whether he was the most suitable person to be writing it.
I have no doubt in my mind that Kilbride thinks he’s doing good works here. I have no doubt his heart is in the right place and he’s trying to help in the best way he knows how. The problem is he hasn’t had his epiphany yet about men’s place in feminist discourse. Maybe it’s coming now, in the wake of his piece? You do not tell women how to feminist, and that is exactly what this article is attempting to do.
The point it makes is to tell ladies to pipe down.
This point is no good.
It’s too similar to what the misogynists Kilbride claims to condemn are saying, and too similar to what feminists have been hearing for centuries. This is not new. The reaction Jack Kilbride is getting from feminists is such because this is shit we’ve heard before, and shit we’re sick of.
“There is no safety in this State as long as these shrieking women are running about… old frumps… gawks… tabby cats… trash” – A member of Victorian Parliament describing suffragists in 1906.
Men have used (ridicule and) tone policing to obfuscate, detract, and override women in this country for a long, long time.
“Mr Staughton” was quoted in 1896 in “The Australian Women’s Sphere” as saying “The class of women who are now howling about women’s suffrage would be at every little dirty corner, arguing and quarrelling and fighting. It is their nature”
To exclude women from the right to get angry (and anger is absolutely a proportionate response to being told someone is going to come after you and kill you) is to try and control them, and it’s as old as water. “The mission of feminism is to make these men change and starting fights with them is only making that mission harder,” Kilbride says. Starting fights? Perhaps a handy timeline of events would benefit: Say someone threatens a crime against a woman via twitter, and she reacts with a snarky tweet. Who started it again? Anger is a perfectly reasonable response, and if patriarchy doesn’t make you mad then you haven’t read enough yet.
What Kilbride has done in his quest to help us out, is fail to listen to us, engage with us with self-awareness, or learn from what women are doing or going through. He has forgotten to step outside of Jack and into the role of woman, to try and have a look at our worldview as best he can.
If Kilbride stood in our shoes before writing this he’d realise that he is in a position where opposition to his words may seem confronting today as he wakes to see the reaction to his article, but that he is in the privileged position where people are critiquing his ideas, not his genitals, sexual past, or appearance. How fucking luxurious.
Before Kilbride gets defensive about the feminist reaction to this piece, it would behoove him to realise how lucky he is that people are engaging with his ideas instead of threatening him with rape and murder. Precisely because no one is going to threaten Kilbride with rape, he can write this. He can suggest people “be nice” because he’s never been told by someone that they’re “too ugly to rape” for writing an innocent tweet about a videogame. It’s easy to tell people to calm down if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a tirade that would make the most zen of Buddhists want to clean a guy’s dial.
If you have not been through what Clementine Ford (and many other prominent feminists and women online) have been through, which is *years* of vitriolic abuse, and specific criminal threats, you have little right to tell them how to conduct themselves during it.
Kilbride wraps up his article with a vague seemingly-meaningful call to action. “If we want to actually change our world we need to stop trying to knock down the wall and instead, start helping people climb over.” The wall is patriarchy, right? Why wouldn’t we want to smash it down? Fuck the wall! Fuck the ways in which certain people would be chosen to be helped to climb over it over others, and presumably by dudes. May I (politely, of course) invite you to grab a sledge hammer and help us with the wall instead of telling Clem Ford how to react to things? It may be a better use of your allied energies. It may even be The Answer.