Why criticising no platforms is rooted in misogyny

Once again, liberal feminism is up in arms about a no-platform, and according to abuse apologist liberal feminism, if a woman gets no-platformed, that’s sexism.

This is one of those lines which focuses largely on the feelings of the oppressor rather than who has actually made no-platforming decisions. And who does make no-platforming decisions? A lot of the case it’s women: feminist societies, feminist collectives, groups of women collectively organising towards a goal.

These women are working hard to carve out a little safe space in an unsafe world, which is difficult where there is so much social violence going on. They’re doing their best and have few tools at their disposal. No-platforming is one of those, and it’s a powerful one. It’s a statement of what women think is helpful, and what is harmful. It’s a statement and an enforcement of boundaries. It’s a gesture of free speech, and one of the few freedoms we have.

Under patriarchy, women are expected not to have boundaries. We’re expected to allow anyone access to our spaces, both personal and physical. We’re expected to accept it even when it hurts us. So when we actually state what we will allow near us and what we will not, when we band together in solidarity against the few women who do like attacking women, it’s considered an outrage. Women are not supposed to do that. We’re behaving like bad girls by having and showing our boundaries, by exercising one of the meagre instruments available to us.

Women are not above bigotry, and are not above actively harming other women. It can be seen in transmisogynistic stances, in anti-sex-worker stances, in racism and disablism. Many of us now band together in solidarity around marginalised women, and this is the position from which no-platforms come. This increased solidarity and sisterhood is only a positive thing, building an ever-stronger movement. Unfortunately, this still meets resistance, because the idea of all women united is an idea which terrifies those who benefit most from patriarchy.

I support no-platforming. I support women’s collective organising. I am opposed to the misogynistic beliefs that underpin the anti-no-platforming stance. I am appalled by the level of obfuscation which always surrounds no-platforming decisions, and furious that once again I have to explain something which should be absolutely basic.

Related: Shit I cannot believe needs to be said: no platforming and censorship are different

4 thoughts on “Why criticising no platforms is rooted in misogyny”

  1. I’m curious though, as to where the lines are drawn. What if a TERF event said no trans people allowed? They often use the argument of creating a safe-space whilst denying trans women their identity. People can use no-platforming on all sides of the political spectrum. Whilst it may largely be a thing that one group of feminists are using, once a tool exists anyone can pick it up, even misogynists. Honestly, I largely agree with you, but I think it’s an area where people can argue very convincingly on both sides and I don’t feel convinced of either argument.

    1. Well yeah. TERFs often use the accusation that calling them a TERF is a slur; they made their entire ideology out of co-opting the language of other movements to legitimise their bigotry. That doesn’t mean we should stop calling out slurs!

      The master’s tools may never dismantle the master’s house, but if he keeps picking up yours and using them wrong, that isn’t a good reason to abolish spanners.

  2. I agree that no platforming is a tool, not a political stance per se. That’s why I find it fundamentally dishonest of those who get so worked up about women no platforming TERFs to pretend that it’s a “freedom of speech” issue.
    They use no platforming, too. They use it explicitly by denying trans*women access to their spaces, they use it implicitly by deciding who gets a platform. They have no problem with no platforming PUAs and MRAs.
    But talking about how horrible “no platforming” suddenly is conveniently distracts from the actual debate: Why were those people “no platformed*”?

    *English, how can you do that?

    1. Is no-platforming even a thing when a platform is denied by the privileged to those over whom they enjoy that privilege? Isn’t that just business as usual?

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