While I don’t like the idea of a dramatic attention seeking blog to justify my exit, having seen some of the nasty comments out there I feel it’s important to clarify a few things.
I did not leave the party over a Liberal Youth march. I think the march was misguided because of a lack of intersectionality and cultural awareness. I left because of the abuse I got for voicing that opinion.
For context, at Autumn conference I invited Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the right wing think tank Adam Smith Institute, to speak on a panel on diversity. As a liberal I thought the varied views would make an interesting debate on how to improve diversity, a topic extremely close to my heart. What followed was a backlash of abuse against Sam. Yet only one person (a woman) directed this abuse directly to Sam. I received the full brunt of abuse meant for him, as well as for sharing a panel with him (other panelists received nothing). Sam asked people to direct their abuse towards him but no one took his offer up. I had had enough of these double standards and decided to leave the party.
On a regular basis over the last few years, when I have been outspoken, made a stupid joke, or voiced an opinion, I have received abuse. After joining FE this became much worse with people constantly telling me that I should have a different standard of behaviour as a member of FE. I received a call from a senior party figure telling me to watch what I say because I am a senior party activist. My outspoken white male friend on FE regularly speaks his mind and tweets stupid stuff. He has never received a call policing his behaviour or thoughts. He has only once been told that as someone on FE he should have a different standard of behaviour than regular activists. I have also not seen these attitudes towards other outspoken white men on FE. I receive a comment like this on a fortnightly basis.
I feel this double standard is because people do not like outspoken Women of Colour. I have spent many years trying to find an alternative reason but time and time again I’m forced to come to this conclusion. It is acceptable for a white man to voice their opinions, but when I do it I fit the “Angry Black Woman” trope. These days I have transformed an angry brown woman because I’ve had enough of people trying to police my behaviours, or silence my opinions. After I tried to leave in September, someone contacted the press and said things about my personal life which silenced me into staying, despite gendered abuse. (Still to this day I have no idea who this was, or why the press would care.)
When I have raised my concerns with the leadership, and named people who have targeted me with gendered abuse I was told “Oh but that’s just how so and so is” or “Is this is first time he’s upset you? You’re so lucky!” In what shape or form is that an acceptable reaction? I believe people have been “spoken to” about my concerns but the intrinsic culture to treat Women of Colour as “fair game” remains unchallenged. On the other hand, I’ve been told that I’m so reactive and rude on social media that I deserve what I get.
The comments post departure have been bizarre. A group of young men have taken to sending me non stop abusive tweets (so bad that I’ve now had to deactivate all of my social media). They’ve taken a comment I made about “smug white people”, and used it to invalidate any important point made about intersectionality. This is similar to what happens to Dianne Abbott. She makes a serious political point about race, and right wingers use her personality and character to invalidate any of her opinions or speech.
In Facebook forums people have tried to invalidate my views by saying “I’ve been looking for an excuse to leave”. I have wanted to leave because of disproportionate abuse and that’s not something to belittle. What’s worse is left wing members have been rejoicing about my departure because they’ve now got their party back, and right wingers feel my views on race are “absurd lefty nonsense.” The Lib Dems are a party with 8 MPs. Should you really be rejoicing when a young woman of colour leaves due to abuse? If that’s the party you’ve got back then good luck with the #LibDemFightback.
As a child my father told me that as an Asian woman I will always have to work thrice as hard due to inherent discrimination in society. I always believed that these double standards wouldn’t be so ingrained in a liberal party but unfortunately it is. As a white man reading this blog you may find my reasoning petty, but when this such a routine part of your activism it begins to really grate down on your self worth and mental health. For me, finally not being held to a Victorian ideal for women of colour, I feel liberated.
If you are supposedly a supporter of diversity, take a moment to consider your reactions and your views towards women of colour. When a WoC speaks up and says “things can be really shit for Women of Colour sometimes, you know”, don’t react with SHE SAID WHITE PEOPLE ARE SMUG!!! SHE H8S TIM FARRON. THIS IS ALL AN EVIL SMEAR CAMPAIGN BY THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA AND/OR ILLUMINATI. Take a moment to consider, why are spaces in the Lib Dems not safe for women of colour? Why do we hold double standards to their behaviour? And what will you personally do to change this?