Things I wish I’d said first, pt 47

You all know I’m on Twitter, right?

A couple of weeks ago I changed my name on Twitter by adding a ‘Ms’ in front of it. This was because one of the volunteers at the CAB where I work on a Wednesday told me about a 70s song called ‘Ms Grace’, I looked it up on Spotify, it’s quite cheery and I liked it. If you’ve got Spotify you can listen to it here.

After I changed my Twitter username (and I really should have seen this coming) someone else picked up my old one, copied my avatar picture, started following all the same people I follow, and tweeted that I love Thatcher. So far, so pant-wetting.

However, my imitator got an imitator (are you following this?). I’m not that popular, I tend to ignore my critics rather than respond to them, and I am very easy to mock. So the Tory trolls found another target: Bevanite Ellie, a fellow Tweeter who will be familiar to regular readers. A fake Twitter account was set up in (very nearly) her name to make nasty, vicious and personal comments about her (and occasionally me, again).

Ellie puts up with a lot of crap from these people. I block Tories on Twitter as a rule because I don’t expect to get on with them personally, and don’t believe there is anything either side can gain from a political argument perpetuated by two people of intransigently opposed points of view in 140 characters at a time. (Also because I generally know what they’re going to say, but more on that later.) But Ellie perseveres, and engages, and debates, and for her pains she gets patronised, smeared and targeted for misogynist abuse.

This evening Ellie has hit back, and although I disagree with her contention that she’s an unworthy target (she’s a fiery and articulate commentator and a rising star of Labour’s online presence), I have to respect her decision that it’s time to take twats to task for being twats.

I imagine it would make a lot of people uncomfortable if I said that one of the reasons Ellie and I (and Kerry McCarthy, and, and, and…) come in for such a lot of stick is because we’re women. But the absolute effluent spouted by ‘the fake Ellie’ makes it hard to deny. Whoever set up that profile saw a picture of a happy young woman with long hair, and from that they judged that she is a silly, thoughtless, upper-class girl with a pony who doesn’t have any opinions of her own. It’s bollocks, it’s insulting, and it is sexist.

Make no mistake, a large part of the outrage directed at politically active women, from the me-and-Ellies on Twitter to the Harriets and Hillarys in the real world, is still grounded in the language of knowing our place. If we’re going to be women in politics, we should at least accept that men know better than us. We should at least pick men as our role models, when other women are so obviously laughable. We should at least stop banging on about sexism. We should at least accept that our looks are going to be compared to each other’s, and that we will be judged on that before we say a word. We should at least know when to shut up.

When it gets to me, it gets a bit more complicated. I’m not going to pretend that my bad press on the internet comes exclusively from being an outspoken left-wing feminist woman, because it doesn’t. Most of it comes from the fact that I did a very bad and stupid thing a couple of years ago. I paid the price for doing it, but I know it’s not going to go away, so since Harry Cole, Donal Blaney and others have already blogged on it, I thought it was about time I did too.

A couple of years ago I was the Academic & Welfare Officer of my Students’ Union. One night I stupidly got involved in an argument with a student I knew and – in the heat of the moment – in a state you could describe as ‘tired and emotional’ – I slapped him. He, and the rest of the campus right, then ran a campaign to force me out of my job.

I lost the confidence vote by eight. I’m ashamed of having been reduced to violence. But I paid the price, not least in losing a job I loved dearly and (I think) was pretty good at. But you move on and you learn lessons. I learned things about which friends you can really trust, about the media, about how to rebuild your life from the ground up, and other things I never thought I would need to know at the age of 22. I will never be proud of what I did, but I am proud that having lived through a local media shit-storm, one lesson I won’t ever learn is not to speak up for what I believe in. I know that most young women in politics will never make the same stupid mistake I did, but I hope they can learn from it anyway, and I hope no-one ever shuts them up either.


9 thoughts on “Things I wish I’d said first, pt 47

  1. You were very good at that job luv.

    It took the union a very long time indeed just to get welfare provision back to where it was when you left. Many new initiatives and many good opportunities to take things forwards got lost on the way.

    You were doing the jobs of two people and you were doing them well. Thankfully the union is now taking welfare a tad more seriously and has two people doing a two person job.

    The fact remains, sadly, that though the act was stupid, it if was any other person they would have kept their job. Throughout your involvement in the union you spoke your mind. You campaigned about issues you believed in. You derailed an ill-thought-out constitution. And you pissed a lot of people off.

    They then pounced on a personal failing as vindication of their moral superiority and an opportunity to extract political revenge.


    1. Don’t really want to get into all of this again, and I think the SU responded very well, but thank-you 🙂

  2. I’d like to think the abuse you’ve had is not because you’re female. I suspect it may be though, and that depresses me – I thought we’d moved on a bit.

    Glad you’re all sticking it to them. Please keep it up.

    As for slapping someone – a lot of us have done far worse and come out smelling of roses. Don’t beat yourself up about it (excuse the unintended pun)

  3. Terrific post, must have been incredibly difficult to write.

    Im my humble one, think that you and Ellie are coming in for stick because tory bloggers are becoming nervous at the increasing online presence of the two of you, KerryMP, Ged Robinson and others are building, a domain previously dominated by our “friends” in blue. The fact that most of you happen to be women at the same time as showing them up is in my opinion causing supporters of a party that is still inherently sexist and homophobic (it will take more than tokenistic all-female shortlists and poorly-constructed arguments by Alan Duncan on Today to convince me, I’m afraid) great feelings of embarrassment and personal inadequacy, I’m sure.

    On a semi-related note, I joiend Twiiter earlier this year. One of the things I’ve gained most from it is following the Labour tweeters. It has shown me that there are people surrounding the Labour set-up who are still willing to fight for a better future with the party at the centre of it. As a result of this, I am considering supporting Labour again for the first time in years. There aren’t the words to explain how disullisioned I have been with the party and there are still many issues I would need to be convinced on. But now I’m convincible (possibly not a word – but makes the point I think!) and am inspired enough by the tireless work and belief of the activists to even consider getting involved myself.

    THAT is why the Labour twitterers are getting so much abuse – because slowly, it’s working.

    Sorry, this is an essay! J

    PS I know paragraph 2 is effectively begging to be trolled. Whatever.

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