Feminism Ain’t the Same as Safeguarding:

For this post, I’ve got an enormous pile of receipts that I want to do a commentary on. One of the problems with the Twitter format is how it can branch off in all directions, and this makes it a nightmare to keep the chronology intact when working through the exchanges – apologies, I’ve structured as best I can. I’ve included a varied selection to demonstrate a reasonably typical ongoing public dynamic between women. As you will see, the discussion is linked somewhat to my last post concerning Genspect.

For clarity, we have Steph retweeting something from TheRadFem KPSS that is drawing attention to safeguarding concerns. We can see she’s tagged three women; I’ll assume she wants their opinions on the concerns raised. It needs to be noted that Karen Davis of You’re Kiddin’ Right? is a controversial figure who is known to be obsessive when she identifies problems. Davis could never be accused of being mealy-mouthed and excels with her straight-talking questioning of all things concerning the ‘gender fracas’. I do not subscribe to her channel, nor do I consider myself a fan. However, I note that Davis offers clear evidence, asks good questions, and is consistent in her approach. Let’s look at some responses.

FeministRoar, one of the tagged women, begins to clarify her perspective. There’s nothing ambiguous, and she makes clear she doesn’t support the concept of ‘virtuous paedophiles’. The flag of critical thinking is raised after her ‘but’. No one is suggesting anyone be condemned, and it’s a definite red flag when anyone suggests you look the other way to a red flag because someone is capable of ‘doing some good work‘. The suggestion they can’t also present as a risk is an absolute blind spot. The second red flag is shown when it is dismissed that someone working with vulnerable people is somehow not able to be groomed when speaking to others who are quite clearly of the opinion that there is such a thing as a ‘virtuous paedophile’. FeministRoar follows up with the tweet below.

Despite not being familiar with Karen Davis, she decides she must be like the other people who attack Stella and co. This is troublesome because FeministRoar suggests Stella and the groups are i) being attacked, and ii) anyone criticising Stella or the groups are misguided. (note my bias there where I say ‘criticise’ and not ‘attack’). FeministRoar uses the ‘I identify as good and my mates are good’ defence when she claims ‘these people are trying to help ‘. This is an anti-safeguarding stance because it relies on a person’s public status being the sole indicator of their ability to safeguard. She asserts it’s okay to disagree and talk with them, but this is insincere. It’s insincere because the civil disagreements have led to accusations of ‘attack’, and I know this because I’ve witnessed it first-hand. FeministRoar continues that ‘hostility and outrage mongering is so counterproductive ‘. We see inferred by this hyperbolic tweet that FeministRoar feels some tone policing is in order. For reference, you can’t class safeguarding concerns as hostility and outrage mongering without making yourself look like an idiot. You need to address the concerns raised and not sit bitching about women being hostile.

We have a thread off-shoot. Mumma Blue is obviously a supporter of Genspect. i) Genspect do suggest they work with kids. ii) Genspect working with parents means they clearly have indirect access to kids. It means they can influence how parents are with their kids. iii) If Genspect runs workshops for schools, we have the same issue as ii). iv) If Genspect is poor on Safeguarding, there is no knowing what kind of state the parent support networks are in because they’re unlikely to be alert to red flags. I’m not sure why FeministRoar’s mind would be blown by women drawing attention to obvious red flags in organisations that aim to have influence in the lives of children. Safeguarding is not ideological. It’s a framework that should ideally be applied to all ideologies. I do not consider FeministRoar’s responses to be thoughtful; Mumma Blue appears to be brown-nosing here. Is it a fight from so many directions? Curious wording there because it implies being attacked from all directions. The women raising concerns aren’t seeing monsters; they’re identifying red flags.

It was to be expected that a woman who often comments on safeguarding issues felt compelled to jump on the thread.

Notice how Gerry begins by agreeing with FeministRoar’s perspective on sexologists in general (not shown in this post, but something along the lines of white male anti-feminist with abhorrent views about sexuality). Often, people make a point of initially agreeing with something to show common ground. It’s a good tactic if you think someone is defensive because it can help reassure you’re not a threat and that you want to focus on a specific issue rather than attack the person’s entire being. Gerry points out that it is framed as an attack even when care is taken to raise problems politely. This says to me that Gerry is possibly hoping to avoid a confrontation. It’s also possible it’s an unspoken desire that her concerns will not be framed as an attack. Gerry mentions actual attacks happening, I haven’t seen this to any great extent, and I’m curious whether she could be referring to random individuals that don’t explain what their concerns are, nor explain why it’s essential they be noted. Further, she highlights the possibility of the safeguarding concerns getting lost in the noise. I don’t actually think this is true and wonder if Gerry is trying to keep the conversation as agreeable as possible. I’ve witnessed firsthand how Stella reacts to legitimate concerns that have been raised without hostility. Stella has blocked many level-headed women who raised issues a couple of months ago. They are the type of women who refer to specific issues and explain policy, and are not the sort who just hurl accusations and call someone names. We then see Gerry explain why a robust policy is needed. She points out, reasonably, that it doesn’t matter if someone is trying to help if Safeguarding is poor.

This isn’t about belief, and I wonder if FeministRoar gave this any depth of thought at all. It doesn’t really matter how many feminists have been spoken to. They don’t have the monopoly on Safeguarding, nor are they exempt from critique. FeministRoar clearly thinks the accusations have been serious but also unfounded. This is particularly concerning because if she recognises the accusations are serious, why isn’t she addressing them? Gerry then asks whether she’s listened to anyone who understands safeguarding, probably because FeministRoar seems to be missing the point.

In a follow-up tweet, Gerry clarifies that Feminism is not the same as Safeguarding. In what appears to be a show of good faith, she implies she’s a supporter of Feminism (someone can be an amazing feminist). Gerry modifies her tone a little for the well versed in safeguarding comment. The first comment is more extreme in language, using words like amazing and never. Compare this to well versed and not know much. I wonder how much of this is a conscious effort to amplify the position of feminists to make clear it’s not about challenging ideology. Again, I see this as a means to avoid conflict or control issues.

FeministRoar does make sure to use Gerry’s name again; this is a good thing because it shows she’s making it clear she’s engaging with Gerry directly. Using someone’s name always indicates you want their attention, and in some situations, it will be done to help create a bond. FeministRoar highlights that she has mostly had conversations in private and gives two different reasons. i) She didn’t want to be one of those already addressing concerns in public, and ii) she wanted to protect or control the feelings of those who were the subject of concerns. The second reason is problematic because she is giving weight to the emotional well-being of professional adult/s above the physical and emotional safety of vulnerable adults and children. Who gives a shit if someone feels attacked if they’re exhibiting red flag behaviours? If you say to someone, for example, ‘hey, do you think it’s appropriate to be associating with paedophile apologists and pornographers when you’re heading a support group that concerns child welfare?’ and they get butt-hurt and defensive, who cares? If they refuse to fuck off and reflect on what is said and continue to exhibit butt-hurt and defensive behaviour, THAT PERSON IS DISPLAYING ANOTHER RED FLAG. She then states that women should indeed raise concerns, great stuff! But then she adds caveats. So, what she really thinks is that women should only raise concerns if conditions are met. She talks of potential damage, but damage to who exactly? And, is she really saying that concerns aren’t taken seriously unless it takes place behind closed doors? Any woman in a febrile environment is not responsible for the words and actions of others. Just because some people are invested in outrage does not mean that everyone else has to sugarcoat their comments to not give fuel for the fire. Sometimes, being outraged is a legitimate response. Anything nuclear can be used for good or ill; just because some people can make bombs out of it has not stopped it from being used to provide energy to power homes.

Again, an unambiguous tweet and one that is likely to set the alarm bells off for those who prioritise Safeguarding. For your clarity, dear reader, Buck Angel is a pornographer. So, she disagrees with the assessment of what happened with Stella but doesn’t explain why and doesn’t consider someone heavily invested in pornography an inappropriate advisor for an organisation established to support families with children. The lack of explanation is curious; it’s just statements. It makes it challenging to engage in meaningful debate. The choice is to either agree or engage in conflict.

Gerry acknowledges the febrile atmosphere. I’ll reiterate that even if attacks have happened, the women who were blocked a couple of months ago were certainly not the ones attacking. They were generally presenting themselves in much the same way as Gerry is here. She rightly states that if something is said in public, it is perfectly fine for it to be challenged in public. Gerry’s primary concern appears to be that those who spot red flags can speak out. Notably, she then explains why we shouldn’t focus on the personality raising the issue, but we should instead focus on the nature of the concern. Gerry then explains why this is necessary. She finishes by saying it hasn’t actually mattered that women have gone to some lengths to highlight issues politely and reasonably because they’ve still been reframed as attacks and dismissed. She is right when she asserts this kind of response to concerns is a massive red flag in itself. Consider this as a carefully worded four-tweet response and note the following response.

Talk about projection. I think someone is a little miffed she is not being seen as the absolute authority on the matter.

I want to veer off for a moment to look at this reaction from Steph. At this point, Gerry has both of them responding to her question. Can you see how a fundamental question provokes a reaction? Gerry didn’t appear to be patronising. If anything, she’s attempting to placate by agreeing with FeministRoar on specific points. I couldn’t give a flying fuck how well-versed someone is in Feminism; it has nothing to do with what is being discussed. That Steph adds ‘(including e.g. Safeguarding)‘ is misguided, as is her deference to FeministRoar. She’s making the mistake of thinking this is about status, and it’s not. FeministRoar doesn’t get to be the voice of ultimate authority just because she’s a well-versed feminist. That’s not how this shit works. Gerry maintains her composure and redirects the conversation back to the issues she raised. She tries to engage Steph with the content of the concerns by asking a directed question.

Steph also responds to Gerry’s feminism=/= safeguarding tweet and agrees that the two are not synonymous which is good. But, how is Feminism a part of safeguarding exactly? I’m not convinced that Safeguarding is integral to Feminism. We wouldn’t have so many posh women being oblivious and ignorant when red flags are raised if it was. Roary’s Feminism is Roary’s Feminism and has fuck all to do with Safeguarding. I understand that Steph possibly feels protective towards someone she considers an authority, but this is a similar reaction to the old ‘I identify as good and my mates are good’. I say similar because while Steph clearly sees FeministRoar as ‘good’, I think this has more to do with deference and a lack of independent thinking. 

Steph plainly did have concerns when she made her tweet. An error is highlighted when she vocalises that she considers the women she tagged to be the most knowledgeable on the subject. I say it’s an error because it’s not sensible to assume that knowledge is enough. Steph knows there’s a problem. I like that Steph makes it known she is still giving thought to the replies because it implies a degree of self-reflection. Drawing attention to the fact she feels that someone she admires has been publicly questioned appears to be creating a challenge for Steph. She states that Gerry has publicly questioned the awareness of FeministRoar, but I don’t understand why this is wrong? When Steph tells Gerry it is irrelevant if she doesn’t consider her reply patronising, she is misguided. Here, Steph is trying to claim dominance over the situation by asserting her own emotional interpretation as the correct one. Notice Steph doesn’t actually argue any of the points Gerry raised and instead just says the equivalent of ‘you wouldn’t defer to my chosen authority as your voice of authority; therefore, you are attacking’. Gerry asserts that a familiar dynamic is playing out, and she is absolutely right when she claims it’s a mindset that makes safeguarding impossible. Steph has fallen into the trap of assuming she and her friends are ‘good’ and therefore not capable of presenting a risk themselves. Worse still, Steph clearly knows there’s a problem, and instead of listening to herself, she handed her power over to a third party who then tried to minimise her concerns rather than address them.

Gerry clarifies she has read Steph’s initial tweet. She hasn’t said nor implied that Roary is a safeguarding concern and asks where she has implied it. She doesn’t get an answer to that. Gerry reiterates the familiarity of the dynamic and specifically mentions people getting defensive about themselves and their friends. Steph digs in and maintains that Gerry’s tone, whether real or imagined, is the real problem here. Further, because Gerry doesn’t apologise for her tone nor try to placate Steph, Steph accuses Gerry of deciding that she (Steph) is now the enemy. Is all of this because Gerry laid bare the dynamic? I’m glad Gerry calls her out, but notice how she offers immediate reassurance that she doesn’t think of Steph as an enemy. It’s another placatory comment; whether conscious or not is irrelevant. She finishes off by stressing she doesn’t want conflict with anyone but ends it with an acknowledgement of the kneejerk defences she sees. This may invite conflict depending on whether Steph reacts or responds.

I really like this tweet from Steph because she’s acknowledging she needs time to process the information she’s received. This is an excellent example of an emotionally mature response. Because Steph is asking for time out, it indicates she wants to engage in self-reflection. This is so important. The ability to self-reflect is crucial when dealing with anything Safeguarding related. She’s also referenced her personal life and included a laughing emoji, both of which suggest she’s trying to minimise conflict.

Back to the main thread, and we pick up straight after FeministRoar has asked if the lecture is now finished. And yes, as Trans Widows’ Voices point out, sometimes things are just too complex to condense to a single tweet. StanFastic replies with a screenshot and link to a tweet thread that supports the comment. You’ll notice Georgia Cross wrote, ‘a bit of dust has settled’; she was referring to a big twitter-based argument that involved Stella O’Malley ignoring red flags that were seen and noted by ordinary women. The gist of the thread explains how someone reacts to safeguarding concerns will determine their ability to actually deal with them. You will notice that the thread is clear, lacks hostility, and does not call for outrage. Georgia explains the necessity of raising awareness of red flags in public, especially if private concerns have been ignored. She points out that publicly rejecting concerns of red flags when it is clear they are plentiful is attractive to abusive people because they know that objections made about them are likely to be ignored. She further explains that giving someone a free pass of trust because you think they are good will attract abusers because they know they will never be suspected. Georgia explains that grooming is an intrinsic part of abuse. All of this is good background material relevant to the issue of FeministRoar dismissing concerns because she used the argument that Stella et al. are doing good work.

I think this comment reveals something of FeministRoar’s nature and indicates an overly dominant ‘me v them’ mindset. To frame the question in the way she did shows she associates a difference of opinion as an open conflict between personalities. Otherwise, she’d have said, ‘are you suggesting I disagree with what Georgia said?’ It suggests to me she’s of the position that if you don’t think the same, or if you disagree with her, you’re automatically cast as the enemy. It’s framed as the individuals being in conflict, and not simply the ideas that are different. StanFastic can likely see the dynamic that Gerry has already pointed out and is likely to be further convinced by FeministRoar’s reaction. Directly asking whether StanFastic thinks she is in conflict with Georgia and tagging her in the question appears to be an aggressive move. StanFastic clarifies her reason for including the screenshot. Stan knows the screenshot and thread is entirely relevant. Like Gerry, StanFastic appears to be sensitive to the dynamic, and she’s making an effort to not engage in a battle when she says she’ll exit the discussion but asks FeministRoar to read the contents of the screenshot and linked thread. FeministRoar seems to think because she agrees with the contents of Georgia’s thread, she is somehow exempt from those rules applying to her. It’s a common pitfall that is often addressed during a period of self-reflection. We have to examine our own behaviour because none of us will ever be immune to grooming, and none of us can ever be sure we won’t inadvertently cause harm. It is easy to make the mistake of thinking we know something because we’ve read it. Actually putting that knowledge to use in practice is a different matter.

Georgia Cross responds to being tagged into the thread. She begins her response by clarifying that this is about a specific issue. Note that she uses the more emotionally neutral words  we disagreeGeorgia doesn’t seem to think there is an agreement between what she wrote and what FeministRoar is saying about this issue. The divisive element here is whether concerns are raised privately or publicly. She alerts FeministRoar to the fact she’s one of those blocked by Stella for raising concerns. I will assume that FeministRoar doesn’t ordinarily think that Georgia Cross is someone who engages in hostility, nor outrage mongering. Georgia clarifies she does not consider herself to be in conflict with FeministRoar. It’s clear to see that FeministRoar is not practising what she thinks she’s preaching. No lies are being said about FeministRoar, and no one is making anything up. Is she just copying what Gerry said to Steph? Georgia is also using a pacifist stance because, at this point, it would’ve been entirely appropriate to ask FeministRoar what the fuck was she on about. Georgia remains calm and expresses confusion because there is a divide between what she knows she wrote and what FeministRoar says regarding the ‘attacks’ on Stella, Genspect, and GDAlliance. Georgia also appears to be unsure as to who is considered to be ‘attacking’. By expressing confusion, Georgia is opening up a channel of communication for FeministRoar to offer clarity. Further, she lets FeministRoar know she is not someone who follows YouTubers which implies she is not reacting simply on the opinion of another. She explicitly states that she was very sure she saw an anti safeguarding response regarding concerns raised via Twitter. She reiterates she does not intend to fight. 

StanFastic calls it openly after seeing the response to Georgia Cross. She is, of course, referring to the dynamic Gerry claimed to be sensing. She even provides an earlier tweet of Gerry Davies’ that explicitly mentions an ongoing problem of concerns being labelled as attacks. Sadly, StanFastic got a block from FeministRoar for her efforts.

Let’s have a pause with another diversion. Isla Mac is straightforward in her opinion and seems to be coming from a very grounded standpoint. Isla rightly asserts this isn’t about feminist analysis. She also shows she understands that the ‘doing good work‘ is not some kind of magic wand to absolve oneself or others from following safeguarding protocol. At this point, I can only assume FeministRoar is being willfully ignorant. Again, it doesn’t matter what she thinks, but for fucks sake, look at how she’s worded this. Blanchard et al. aren’t leading researchers in childhood gender dysphoria. They’re sexologists who research ADULT MALE PARAPHILIA. What in the ever-loving fuck can they possibly have to offer children? But then, I know that Stella has been pulled up before about her attempts to label children as AGP. It’s all a bit of a mess, really. 

These last couple of tweets show further evidence of the contradictory stance. If you repeatedly say there should be no barriers to women raising safeguarding concerns, you don’t then put up barriers by telling them how it has to be done. The repeated insistence on doing things privately implies that is the preferred way. FeministRoar states she did not agree with some of the claims being made and spoke to women personally to not add to the existing conflict. What the fuck? Is she actually saying here that she tried to dissuade women from airing concerns publicly because she didn’t think the claims were warranted? How would a shitstorm create a barrier exactly? Shitstorms commonly involve an abundance of ideas and opinions. That’s not a barrier. Granted, it’s a lot of noise, but it’s not a barrier. Often, women who have held private concerns but dared not raise them will find reassurance within a shitstorm, and it’ll give them the courage to speak their own concerns out loud. I think FeministRoar could be significantly clearer if she could work through her own blindspot and see how she is contradicting herself. Again, is she saying she spoke to some of the women raising concerns because she wanted to vocalise that she disagreed with them, and did she dissuade women from speaking out in public?

It’s like she thinks that if she keeps repeating herself, what she says will somehow be true. Who are these ‘women who know their stuff’? And what are these more effective ways to raise concerns? She’s talking out of her arse here and seems to be missing the point. She spoke to women privately so as not to put up barriers for other women. . . why would she be putting barriers up for other women? The only way she’d consider herself to be putting up barriers for other women is if she was telling those women, in private, that their concerns weren’t valid. I’m hoping I’ve got this bit wrong, and I’m just confused because she’s not being clear.

Gerry possibly did block her, and I’m not surprised because FeministRoar had quote tweeted the thread and didn’t appear to be really engaging with what was said. I read the entire thread, and she did claim women were hostile and outrage mongering. She also explicitly stated that she spoke to women privately to disagree with their concerns. She’s repeatedly indicated that private is better than public. She also stated that those who ‘know their stuff, know there’s more and less effective ways’ to raise concerns. This kind of statement in itself is likely to put women off because they’ll be too concerned about doing it effectively. She did not actually explain how she took steps to ensure women who aren’t well versed were not put off from raising concerns. The only time she mentions speaking to women is when she says ‘I disagreed with some of the claims made so I spoke to women privately‘. FeministRoar also stated that she thought safeguarding concerns should be raised carefully in an appropriate way. How does this not imply there is an inappropriate way exactly? At the very least, it reads to me like she’s engaging in a form of gatekeeping. I sincerely hope the women she spoke to privately to express disagreement told her to fuck off.

I had a couple more tweets I wanted to include, but I’m aware the length of this post is already excessive so will leave them to one side. I will try to be brief in closing. I’ve become aware there is a common assumption that children cannot be safe if women are not safe. This is likely to be very accurate. But, this should not be taken to mean women can be assumed to be risk-free. It clearly needs to be stated that just because women are safe does not automatically follow that children are safe. Feminism is not the same as Safeguarding. Safeguarding as a framework is used to assess and identify risks and to prevent harm. It can also draw attention to where harm is ongoing. Safeguarding as a framework does not discriminate, and it can and should be used irrespective of whatever ideology you align yourself with. 

I’ll end this post with a quote lifted from Georgia Cross

If you are working with a set of moral certainties – whether they’re ideological, religious or political – or a belief in yourself as well-meaning and good, you may be blind to risk. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong or a bad person; it just means you’ve missed something somewhere. The safeguarding point is that if you do not recognise a risk, you yourself become a risk because you will handwave through that risk. “I’m a good person so I can’t be a risk” IS a risk. To avoid this trap, we try to use reflection, or reflective practice. Has my well-meaning action or intervention unwittingly caused harm or enabled harm? Are others suggesting to me that it could? If they are, I must stop and work it through before continuing.

Georgia Cross

Notes: At the time of editing this post before publishing, I note that Buck Angel is no longer showing on the advisory board of GDAlliance. I also note that Ray Blanchard is no longer on the Genspect website either, and will be addressing these changes in a future post.

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