Suddenly, I was receiving online threats; including threats of death and rape
During this media frenzy, the Women’s March London got in touch – would I like to make some more knicker-bunting for their stage in Parliament Square? I agreed of course. Frances from the 50:50 Parliament Campaign also got in touch. I suggested to both organisations that I’d make them some more Pants of Protest (which seemed as good a name as any). I warmed to the theme and sent a couple of knickers-in-progress photos to the Women’s March London, which they retweeted.
And the next response was extraordinary. Suddenly, I was receiving threats. Online threats from a bunch of people who seemed to turn every single thing about three pairs of colourful pants into something about hating Islam, telling me I was pathetic, childish and/or a disgrace to my gender. Or that period poverty isn’t a problem to women because you can buy cheap sanitary towels in ASDA. Three days of relentless trolling was at first upsetting and then infuriating. There were insults, then goading and then death and rape threats. FOR THREE PAIRS OF PANTS. The best advice from everyone was to ignore it, but it’s hard when you’re used to debating and discussing. I sat on my hands for three days, desperately wanting to even just address the fact it’s pretty hard to access an ASDA to buy tampons when you live in rural Somalia for example.
The vast and comprehensive ‘whataboutery’ on my feed extended to many, many things, but the key complaint seemed to be that in deciding to write ‘end period poverty’ on my knickers, I was somehow condoning Female Genital Mutilation. I totally fail to see the correlation but, just to clear this up: The Women’s March London is working with two partner charities which directly address FGM. Action Aid works on this Internationally and, for those asking constantly what’s happening more locally, The Dhalia Project specifically works with women affected in the UK. People on the march will be showing solidarity by marching together to support these and other important charities. Period poverty is a big problem internationally, deeply affecting the education of girls across the globe. It is a big problem here in the UK too. Yet, apparently, this was a hugely controversial thing to highlight and if you do you will literally be sent tweets from people hoping that you will actually be killed for saying it.
One of the tweets, and its ilk made me really laugh. It was about the suffragettes. History shows us that the suffragettes did everything and anything to get the vote – which included blowing things up, going on hunger strike, hiding in cupboards, making lots of handmade banners of varying skill levels. They were thoroughly involved in making a total public nuisance of themselves, some of which was hardly dignified. Also, as a direct response, I don’t think we can actually have political equality without equal representation. Hence working with the 50:50 Parliament Campaign. I hope that clears that up.
I reported a few of the particularly vile tweets and threats which I've not re-posted, but they’re all still mainly on my feed if you'd like to look (although, it's not very nice). As I write this I find I'm still cross. Perhaps I should have been braver in my immediate responses.
Marching in solidarity with many organisations and people
Instead, however, I decided to take a slightly more Craftivist approach in response. I’ve made special pairs of knickers, which really spell out my standpoint. I’m marching with the Women's March London, which is working with the Anti-Trump protest. I'm marching against many things in solidarity with many people and organisations. I’m marching not against the office of the President of the United States, but against what Trump himself represents – a man who insults, assaults, uses misogynistic language, separates children from families, denies climate change and so much else besides.
I’ve made several strings of knicker-bunting for the Stage in Parliament Square. One pair says ‘Knickers to Trolls’, some say ‘Knickers to Sexism’, on some rather lovely Janet Regers I've spelt out 'consent' and ‘Love Not Hate’ on some Agent Provocateurs.
Caught Short, a London-based company which sells ethically made-knickers sent me some to use - they’re the ones I’ve mainly written about Parliamentary representation on – ‘Ask Her to Stand’, ’50:50 Parliament’, ‘Equal Seats, Equal Say’. A friend donated some shapewear to me (better known as Spanx) so I could write ‘Representation Shapes Policy’ on them. Others pants were donated by the Arts University Bournemouth, and I’ve written ‘Resistance’, ‘Nevertheless She Persisted’ and ‘Disruption and Joy’ on those.
I’ve also been invited to a meeting at the House of Lords, to talk about politics with two brilliant women who actually work in politics and who have been champions of women's rights, Wera Hobhouse MP and Baroness Maddock.
I remain incredibly inspired by the campaigner Gina Martin, and the way she has raised her voice, despite the desperate trolling she’s received for doing so. I’m actually even inspired by the internet trolls who want to shut down women with bullying tactics to make us afraid to speak loudly. I want to raise my voice loudly. I’m worried if we don’t, the people who consistently tell us that they want us to be raped or killed for doing so could actually win our silence. And we can’t let them do that. Let’s bring the noise. Let’s bring the love. Let’s bring the disruption and joy.
You can follow Lorna's twitter account @thegobbledegook
For more about the issues around up skirting, private members’ bills and Christchurch, read this beautifully written article (by Christine Dawson) here:
For updates about Gina’s campaign for Upskirting Legislation, follow her on twitter @beaniegigi
Free speech is a right that is worth preserving. We give our SOAPBOX pages to others to tell us their view of the world.