by Asia Patel

Content Warning: brief mentions of harassment, rape threats, sexual harassment, menstrual blood, some examples of trolling including concern trolling (regarding body weight), mild swearing.

My name is Asia. I’m on the UUEAS Feminist Society committee for next year. I was last year too, and it’s really opened my eyes to how straight-up rude and cruel people like you can be to other people who are striving for equality. I want to get real with you, adult to adult.

I want to remind you that UUEAS FemSoc is run voluntarily by students. And even so, there’s no such thing as a professional feminist. We are all human beings with emotions and feelings, just like you. There have been many implications of ‘overreacting’ to ‘criticism’, but when this ‘criticism’ consists of comments on my gender, sexual harassment, and even rape threats, I feel like anger is justified and not excessive. No one should have to hold back how they feel to insults and comments like this, but in my position, I have learned how to for concerns of accusations of being ‘threatening’ or having ‘an elitist attitude’.

I disagree with other feminist ideas, even those of current
committee members, and yet we’re still working together.

On the accusations of elitist attitudes: I appreciate that in the past, UUEAS FemSoc has come across as clique-y or of having a hive mentality. It’s not like that anymore. The great thing about feminism is how unique it is to each individual who believes in it — and in the current society incarnation, it’s the most visible in years. I disagree with other feminist ideas, even those of current committee members, and yet we’re still working together. If you don’t believe in feminism, don’t join UUEAS FemSoc or related groups. If you think egalitarianism is better, set up an egalitarian society. If you disagree with someone else, calmly discuss it with them if they are willing, and leave them be if they are not. Don’t force your ideas onto someone else.

I’m still unsure of why UUEAS FemSoc are deliberately sought out to harass. I don’t go around to other societies I do not agree with and insult them, clog up their resources with unfounded accusations, and post unimaginative, untrue insults (I actually shave my armpits, shower most days and quite like penises, thank you very much) to anonymous platforms. I’m not annoying you, and I’m sure that the majority of the feminists who are active with the society wouldn’t come remotely close to you unless they really had to. If you can’t say something nice, or at least constructive, then don’t say anything at all.

UUEAS FemSoc is unfairly held to a much higher standard than other societies at UEA. I have not seen another society write a constitution as extensive as ours, with appendices, and constant updating, which is also approved by the Student Union. We are as explicit and clear as we possibly can be in our methods but are still a feeding ground for the some of the most abusive trolls that I have ever met.

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(© Asia Patel)

remember that point about feminism being personal?

The Facebook group that we run is in addition to our role as a society and is where we face the most negativity, and outright attacks. It’s also not a true representation of the society itself because it consists of 1,800 members, from current students to alumni to East Anglian feminists. I love how you think that we’re capable of membership of that size at UEA though. There is an unrealistic expectation of committee members to be on the group all the time justifying the actions of not only ourselves, but other feminists, both within the society and outside of it.

Committee members are there to moderate the discussion group, ensuring that the safe space policy is adhered to (section 2. of the constitution) using the methods outlined in section 3. of the constitution and appendix 1. Any opinions posted by individual members, including committee members, are opinions of that one person and not a representation of the society as a whole — remember that point about feminism being personal? There have been many allegations of UUEAS FemSoc removing members from the group for having different opinions to the committee, which is pretty baffling as each of the eight of us already holds different opinions. We’re individuals that exist independently of each other, despite what popular movies/TV/books/BNOCs/trolls will tell you. The majority of people are removed from the group for harassing other members, excessive trolling, or derailing discussions — despite what the accusations claim.

The internet is a wonderful thing, useful for more than just porn and trolling.

There’s a strange double standard floating about in the troll caves. On one hand they say that we assume that we think we know everything, when actually we don’t. On the other hand, the trolls want us to explain everything to them. “What did I do wrong?”, “Why have you removed me from the group?”, “Why can’t I be concerned about her weight?”, “Tell me what I should trigger warn”, “Why should I sit and listen? I have an opinion too!” They make me want to throw something. The internet is a wonderful thing, useful for more than just porn and trolling. I will not spoonfeed you information you can easily find with a Google search, or that I have already explained, or that I have created a resource for.

You needed a man to tell you listen, so I gave you nine.

I’ve made specific material to help shed some light on feminism. Shout out to the self-defining men who wrote for the ‘feMENism’ themed Riot! (our self-produced zine) in June 2015. Shout out to the other men who have consistently shouted over oppressed genders and still complain about how there is a men-specific document telling them to be quiet once in a while and listen. You needed a man to tell you listen, so I gave you nine. And still there are people who do exactly the opposite and break the rules. These people are mostly men, and removing them isn’t sexism — it’s doing our job.

If you have a warped perception of UUEAS FemSoc because of what trolls have said or if you are a troll, I urge you to come to a discussion group or an event. Apparently, we do nothing — unless you count International Women’s Day, raising money for a foodbank, tax-free sanitary products, boycotting the Daily Star, participating in the UK premiere of The Hunting Ground and discussion afterwards, multiple whiteboard campaigns, Carry That Weight, biweekly discussions, moderation of a Facebook group and a Union Award Nomination as nothing (this is just in 2014/15, by the way). If you still don’t like it, you can complain to us officially through an email or to the Union. We take formal complaints seriously, and will accept any punishment that might come of them. You could even put yourself forward for a committee position (though you have to be a paying member) and change the society.

Or y’know, bitch about us on Yik Yak. It’s much easier to believe that we’re all still second wave feminists — all hairy, bra-burning, menstrual blood drinking man-haters with narrow-minded perceptions of equality — than to admit that you’ve been a bit of an asshole and were treated like everyone else as per our rules. Equality.

Sorry that you have a warped perception of UUEAS FemSoc. Sorry that you think we’re a clique with one single version of feminism. Sorry that we removed you from the group. Sorry you disagree with our rules. Sorry that the world is getting better and you’re getting left behind.

Most of all, sorry I’m not sorry.

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