Image for Van Badham ... Desperate to be relevant ... ?

First published August 8

On 27 and 28 July a group of people met at RMIT Melbourne to attend the Australian Summit Against Sexual Exploitation (ASASE) - http://www.asase.com.au/further-details.  Without exception, the speakers and attendees at the gathering are persons – academics, activists and social workers - dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of women and girls, and the untold harms it causes.

Outside the venue, on the afternoon of the second day of the conference, was a loosely organised ‘queer street party’, advertised on Facebook as ‘Protest ASASE’ -  https://www.facebook.com/events/285614115321860/?active_tab=about.  Those involved in the summit were politely referred to as ‘TERF and SWERF scum’ and exhorted to ‘FUCK OFF’ by the party/protest organisers.

And, actively and vocally supporting the protest was none other than Ms Van Badham – darling of the neo-liberal Labor left, and a person with a self-confessed ‘predilection for arguing with ABSOLUTELY EVERYBODY’.

Ms Badham promoted the ‘party’ on her various media platforms (seriously, how much social media presence does one person need, Vanessa?), as follows –

• Twitter @vanbadham July 26
‘Protest against terrible people gathering in Melbourne this Saturday in your most fun outfit, and show solidarity to the unfairly stigmatised through the medium of boogie.
MORE DEMOS LIKE THIS, PLEASE!
(And share, share, share)’
• Twitter @vanbadham July 26
‘BOOOOOO to this.
Some truly awful fauxminists and aspiring Christian gender police are attending a self-appointed-moral-saviours conference in Melbourne this weekend.
Allies & grownups will be protesting outside throwing a fun party!
PLEASE SHARE!’
• Facebook - Vanessa Elizabeth (Ms Badham’s given names) - July 23
‘Yo, Melbourne comrades and fellow travellers,
The WORST People in the World (Official) are gathering in Melbourne this Saturday in order to be as unpleasant as possible, en masse.  Yep, every far right nutjob for MILES AROUND will hold hands with modern feminism’s most profound disappointments to validate one another’s personal and weird issues with sexworkers and trans people.  It breaks my heart.
What brings me joy, however, is that a coalition of feminists and freedom fighters are protesting these dodos in my favourite way possible: BY HAVING A MASSIVE FUN STREET PARTY.  Allies and accomplices committed to inclusion are welcome to dress in their most fun outfit, to dance and groove away the hate, and maybe underline the message that:
- sexworker rights are human rights
- trans right are human rights
- crazy haters, shut up, just shut up
Details are below.  And if you can’t make it, please use your platform to remind the world that NOT BEING AN ASSHOLE is a majority opinion, especially in Melbourne, and these people really need to get back on the train to Fuckofftown.’

So, what motivates a fortyish Gen Y ‘journalist’, with a fair grasp of the English language and its peculiarities (you probably demonstrate better spelling, punctuation and grammar than most of your generation, so kudos for that, Vanessa) to indulge in the sort of ghastly, unsubstantiated, expletive-ridden take down of others we expect to see from teenage ‘mean girls’?

Is it a need to be seen as a relevant part of the dominant political and social discourse?  To be totally on board with the latest PC trends?  To be a ‘social media influencer’ with oodles of like-minded followers?

I’m guessing ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘yes’.

But maybe Ms Badham should think about this:

Despite your rambunctious, unquestioning support for the sex trade lobby and the trans rights movement, today’s society isn’t one giant rainbow party for women. 

There are an estimated 40-42 million people in prostitution worldwide and around 80 per cent of them are women (https://prostitution.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=0000095).  An even greater majority of those buying sex are men.  The average age of entry into prostitution is 13 to 14 years.  Most are there because they are trafficked and/or they have no other way of supporting themselves, their children and their families.  It is not a ‘choice’ in the way women like you understand the word, it’s a grave, humiliating and dangerous invasion of their personal integrity.  It’s as far from a choice as anything could possibly be.

And, a very vocal, well-organised trans activist movement has so far secured the passage of laws in a number of jurisdictions around the world that prevent women from gathering together in safety and security, and they want more.  They want to become legally female on the basis of their own self-identification.  No other change to a person’s legal identity is allowed in this way – for example, neither you or I could become a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity just because we felt like it.  It would be both absurd and offensive for that to be the case.

But, somehow, we’re meant to suspend our collective disbelief, and recognise a person with a penis and testicles towelling off in the change room of our women only gym as a true female - as one of us.  You might be capable of that level of cognitive gymnastics, and you’re not alone by any means, but some women just can’t do it.

You’ve jumped on the shiny sex work/trans bandwagon, Vanessa, but your place in the caravan is tenuous at best.  You’re technically the enemy – a well-educated, relatively privileged, white ‘cis woman’ in a heterosexual relationship.  ‘But my partner has two ‘mums’’, you might say.  So you ‘married into’ a bit of LGBTQI++++ credibility.  Big fucking deal. 

You’ve seen how they talk about women of your kind, and they’ll turn on you in a second if you dare to express an even vaguely contrary view.  If you don’t keep parroting their bile like a devout, unquestioning, ‘sex-positive’ trans-maiden.

The women who participated in the conference, who you venomously dismissed as ‘the WORST People in the World (Official)’ comprised sex trade survivors, survivors of sexual assault, and others who devote their lives to bettering the lot of women, despite constant gratuitous written and verbal abuse, no-platforming and demonisation.

There are men out there raping and assaulting women at this very moment, and every other moment of the day, and THESE women are the ‘worst people in the world’?

The people you support carry placards and banners emblazoned with vile insults, and shout those same hideous slurs at women who dare to challenge them.  Trans activists have physically assaulted women in public places.

But a group of women meeting to address the proliferation in sexual exploitation of women and girls are the ‘worst people in the world’?

Did the ASASE participants abuse the protesters?  Did they advertise the conference as a meeting intended to tell sex worker and trans scum to fuck off?  Did they wear t-shirts with ‘punch a sex worker/trans person’ inscribed over a bloody red patch?

You talk about ‘crazy haters’, Vanessa and urge them to ‘shut up, just shut up’.  But who are the ‘haters’, really?  Ask any five year old, and they’ll tell you it’s the people shouting the nasty words – it’s sort of sad that so many women of your age have completely lost touch with that common sense reality.

And the protest wasn’t the benign ‘party’ gathering you thought it would be.  Several protesters entered the venue, heckled the speakers and attendees, and announced they were there ‘to interrupt’ not to listen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-X3O2JcByY&t=14s).

Given the aggressive, confrontational nature of the organiser’s advertising either you were thoroughly duped, or you’re happy to nod and smile in agreement while holding desperately to your seat on the wagon.

You’ve written your own #metoo story, but do you have any real empathy for women who endure unwanted sex on a daily basis?  You willingly respond to the trans activists’ battle cry, but do you care that lesbian women are being vilified for refusing to consider intact male ‘transwomen’ as sexual partners?  As Board Chair of the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, you give a platform to a ‘sex worker’ - Gala Vanting - to educate ‘sex work’ allies, but tolerate their ‘gala venting’ contemptuousness towards feminist advocates, Professor Sheila Jeffreys and Julie Bindel
(https://www.qvwc.org.au/2018/07/feminist-allyship-to-sex-workers-part-one/).

Think about it, Ms Badham.  Women’s rights are circling the drain, disappearing faster than you can imagine into an Orwellian nightmare where they can no longer speak the truth about their sex.  The sex trade lobby is telling them their bodies are commodities and being used is ‘empowering’.  Trans activists are erasing every aspect of their biology from language and social discourse.

It’s time to get out of the #lookatme bubble, Vanessa and wake up.  Before you know it, you’ll be an invisible old lady – sorry, old person, ‘lady’ will probably be considered ‘hate speech’ by then – and no-one will care what you think.  Do you really want to sell out your own sex for the price of a few minutes’ notoriety? 

*Bronwyn Williams is a retired lawyer and social worker.