On 10 December, Nimko Ali, Kira Cochrane, June Eric-Udorie, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Abi Morgan and Sophie Walker took part on a panel chaired by Jane Garvey organized by the Guardian about contemporary feminism.
The next day Ms. Hartley-Brewer published an account of the panel in the Daily Telegraph. From this it is clear that she found it a perplexing event in which issues and ideas were discussed that she did not understand or agree with. However, instead of presenting these arguments clearly and rebutting them with her own; she instead chose to write a piece mocking the other panel members and their views. In particular, she was unhappy about Ms. Eric-Udorie’s participation in the event. Ms. Hartley-Brewer wrote:
So I spent most of the evening being lectured on how to be a proper feminist by a 17 year old fellow panellist.
If only I could have met her before I became the third ever female political editor of a national newspaper in Britain! If only my mother had been able to seek her advice when, as a divorced mum of two, she decided to become a doctor in the 1970s! If only we had known then what that 17 year old knows now!
She was, to be fair, a very bright, articulate and sincere 17 year old but, nevertheless, a teenager. Luckily that didn’t stop her knowing that women only become the main carers for their children because they are forced to be, by their limited life choices, dominated as they are by the patriarchy.
The gist of her argument appeared to be, how could a 17 year-old girl possibly have any idea about feminism or women’s lives at all? And how dare this girl share those views and disagree with Ms. Hartley-Brewer in public? Only her indignation at being cricitised in public by a teenager can explain why she would make Ms. Eric-Udorie the centre of her column.
As a result of being so prominently featured in Ms. Hartley-Brewer’s column, Ms. Eric-Udorie found herself to be suddenly of interest to numerous Twitter users who like nothing better than to belittle, insult and harass women on-line. She and other feminists on Twitter complained to Ms. Hartley for the deeply unpleasant attempt to make Ms. Eric-Udorie a figure of ridicule.
Later on that day, and in the days that have followed, Ms. Hartley-Brewer and Louise Mensch have repeatedly ridiculed Ms. Eric-Udorie via Twitter. In an astonishing role-reversal, they claim that it is she who cannot take criticism (although what criticism they have of the arguments of Ms. Eric- Udorie have never been expressed).
Moreover, copying the tactics of internet abusers they contend that by speaking publicly and using a Twitter account she has brought the abuse she has received on herself. Ms. Eric-Udorie has requested that they desist with such behaviour but as yet, neither appear ready to afford her the respect she deserves.
Instead, Ms. Mensch continues to ridicule Ms. Eric-Udorie.
While Ms. Hartley-Brewer is still refuses to understand why a column written to ridicule a 17 year-old girl who disagreed with her on a panel event was in any way offensive.
As a result, we at EOM would like to make the following statement:
Ms. Eric-Udorie may only be 17. However, she was invited to speak on the panel because she is an active feminist activist. She has worked for 3 years on girls rights with groups such as @FGMSilentScream and @YouthForChange and directly with the Department of International Development for UK government. In fact, she was shortlisted for a Red Magazine award this year in recognition of her work. As such, she had the requisite experience and knowledge to be on the panel, and more than enough authority to disagree with Ms. Hartley-Brewer.
We utterly deplore Ms. Hartley-Brewer’s decision to write a column framing Ms. Eric-Udorie’s disagreements and criticism of Ms. Hartley as “lecturing”. We further object to her decision to ridicule Ms. Eric-Udorie for her age and, implying quite falsely that Ms. Eric-Udorie lacks life experience as a feminist. We call on her to apologise to Ms. Eric-Udorie and recognise that she chose to target Ms. Eric-Udorie in her article because she was angry at being challenged by a teenager in public.
Secondly, we condemn Ms. Mensch’s continued ridicule of Ms. Eric-Udorie via Twitter. We call on her respect Ms. Eric-Udorie’s request that she cease to target her. Ms. Mensch declares herself to be a feminist and denies Ms. Eric-Udorie’s feminism. However, her behaviour towards Ms. Eric-Udorie is not in anyway feminist, it more closely resembles that of a Men’s Right Activist. We believe she also owes Ms. Eric-Udorie an apology.
Finally, we stand in solidarity with June Eric-Udorie. We refuse to see young feminists frightened from speaking in public by the intolerance and abhorrent behaviour of other women.