Ex-Tory MP calls Black feminist ‘bully’


Strong Black women beware! If you dare to speak up for yourself, particularly if you are confronting racism from a black, female perspective which challenges some white women, then instead of your arguments being discussed you’re in danger of being accused of being a ‘bully’, ‘disgusting’, and, that old chestnut, ‘playing the race card’.

This is what befell Reni Eddo-Lodge, who was subjected to a shocking online attack from former Tory MP Louise Mensch. Mensch waded into an ongoing discussion which began on New Year’s Eve, on Radio Four’s ‘Women’s Hour’. During the programme, which included Caroline Criado-Perez, who led a campaign for women to be featured on English bank notes, and Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, Eddo-Lodge felt that Criado-Perez had belittled her views about the importance of race inequality within the general feminist debate, by stating:

certain people are using intersectionality –different levels of prejudice-as a cloak to abuse other women."

Eddo-Lodge went on to blog about her experience on the programme, saying:

After a concerted effort from many a white woman to portray black feminist thought as destructive and divisive, I’m aware that accepting these media requests is a double edged sword."

Reflecting on her own comments, and without being asked to do so, Criado-Perez apologised on Twitter to Eddo-Lodge, saying:

I just wanted to apologise if this am it came across at all like I was suggesting the abuse is something you have been party to. I didn't mean to imply that at all, but I can see that given I responded to your comment, it might have seemed like that."

Mensch seemed incensed, writing on Twitter that:

Reni was wrong and Caroline was wrong to give into her bullying. I wouldn’t have."

She then went on to describe Reni’s arguments as ‘rubbish’ and ‘disgraceful’ and accused her of trying to ‘silence’ other women.

There are so many issues that arise from this debate, but a guess one key aspect that cannot be ignored is that although in general terms feminism, and perhaps particularly British feminism, has undergone a resent resurgence, the space for black women is not only ignored but, sadly, often attacked by some white women using stereotypical, debilitating language such as ‘bullying’, ‘disgusting behaviour’, and the ‘race card’.

Writing on his own blog, the Guardian writer, Ally Fogg wrote about Eddo-Lodge and the ‘feminist row’:

The first point to make is that of all the people I know on the broad media left, Reni Eddo-Lodge is about the least prone to bullying and silencing others you could imagine. It is simply not her style. She does not smear others or troll opponents; she does not pick personal fights or call on people to check their privilege. Her blogs and tweets, though politically radical, are measured, studious and impeccably temperate."

Then turning his attention to Mensch he concludes:

This belief that any black person who does challenge existing systems is a disgraceful bully – however polite, educated and articulate she may be – and must be stamped on at the first opportunity… is a grotesque spectacle of white privilege raised to an art form."

He is right, of course. But this is not just a subtle form of white privilege that Mensch exhibits, it’s racism, pure and simple. The fact that liberals and others are even afraid to say it demonstrates that the dominant society even denies us the opportunity to call things what they are. The feminist movement has the space and the strong voices to rightly articulate, and campaign against, gender inequality, misogyny, and sexism. We, like Eddo-Lodge, must be much braver and confront the many monsters of racism head on too.

Simon Woolley