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[Content note: rape, rape apologism, bullying, eating disorders]
Content note: rape, rape apologism, bullying, eating disorders
I want to speak about what it means to be a feminist and a friend. I want to talk about internalised misogyny and women who hate women. We make mistakes as we try to live feminist lives and as we learn to make decisions in difficult and compromised circumstances. Patience, forgiveness and understanding are necessary feminist values. But when someone consistently makes the same mistakes, and consistently endangers other women by doing so, my tolerance runs out. It takes a lot to get me to this point and I have been pushed to my limit.
I felt uncomfortable having discussions about the LaDIYfest response to the sexual assaults by a former LaDIYfest organiser because of the presence of two people. I believe that one is going through a painful process of recognising what has happened and is taking impressive steps. The other is Georgia Walker Churchman (aka ‘Geo July’). Knowing that she has for a long time minimised and denied the sexual violence perpetrated by Sam Ross (‘Sam Dauterive’/’Sam de Strongbeauvoir’) made me and others mistrust her judgement. She has made Sam look ‘safe’ by virtue of her supposed feminist credentials and has withheld information on his behaviour from people who ought to have been told. These people are now shocked and upset. By hiding this information, she has made women doubt their experiences and has put us in danger. Responsibility for Sam’s behaviour lies, of course, with him, but Georgia’s failure to share her knowledge with friends and allow them to make their own decisions shows extreme disregard for their safety.
I found out last week that she and James Goldthorpe were sleeping together while James and I were going out. This didn’t come as a huge shock; they were constantly flirting in front of me and on Facebook. I’d say that the worst thing was the insult to my intelligence. If I’m being honest, I found it very hurtful that he’d lined her up as a replacement and she willingly jumped into my place, leaving me left out of a relationship and, I felt, of a friendship group. The most disgraceful part of her behaviour was, I’m told, that she knew that he was a rapist. She knew I was going out with a rapist and didn’t tell me. She knew a rapist was texting me constantly after our breakup (after I’d asked him not to) and didn’t tell me. She allowed my friends to be in his presence and kept this information from them. She has seriously endangered other women, including me – again. When she shared my post about James without asking me and without comment, I felt like my pain, caused to a significant extent by her, was being appropriated to bolster the feminist image she seeks to project of herself. I was shocked that she would have the audacity to do this and my panic attack last week followed quickly.
In recent months she has visited my flat, eaten food that I’ve cooked for her and accepted my sympathy and concern for personal things that we’d talked about. I told her secrets. I logged into my university account this week and her work was on my desktop from when I’d given her my password. Now I’m starting to think that she uses confidences as a form of manipulation. I have to say that she’s never been a good friend to me. As an example: she once told me that, of course, I couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to have body image issues. At the time her comment set off a spiral of self-hatred and has returned, unwanted, to cycle through my brain in recent months as my body has shrunk (please, everyone, stop complimenting my weight loss). Is this a person who should be administrating a research network about ‘Gendered Lives’, presenting herself as a feminist activist and scholar, and teaching students about these issues? Someone whose words and actions seem so fundamentally and consistently mismatched?
Abusers are responsible for their behaviour, but they don’t work in isolation. They get away with what they do because their allies cover things up and make it difficult for survivors and others to speak out. Georgia’s actions have harmed other women, for years. I hope she finally engages in some serious reflection on what she has done. We mustn’t cover this up anymore.