sisterhoodispowerful

Radical Feminist Resistence

Let them eat text: The real politics of postmodernism

FROM: off our backs, August/September 1999, V.29; N.8 p. 7, Word Count: 2852

by Karla Mantilla

“After doing some reading in postmodern theoretical texts, several things about the theory suddenly struck me as incongruous. I have been trying to see not just what postmodern theorists say about their theory, but more importantly, how postmodern theory functions in the world–what are the effects of adopting postmodern thinking and theorizing. What became clear to me after some reading was that the overarching effect of postmodernism is to silence thinking and speaking, both personally and politically. I am aware that this is a rather outrageous statement given the attention postmodern theory pays to privileging the voices of

marginalized people, to giving voice to those previously unheard, and to investigating the silences embedded in the dominant discourse (to sling a little postmodern verbiage myself). However, in a deep reading of how postmodern theory functions, I find that these claims are little more than lip service. The important thing to see is not what postmodernism says it does, but how it actually functions.

One of the things that has made me especially curious about postmodernism has been my experience working with interns, for the most part, undergraduate college students, at off our backs. Often, as may well be imagined, in the midst of getting a mailing out, shipping out back issues, or some other tedious office chore, I tend to get involved in discussions of feminism with interns. More frequently than I wish, after offering my perspective on a particular event or theory, interns will reply to me, “You can’t say that.” My usual reply is, “I just did.” I don’t mean to be flip in my response, but I am trying to communicate that you can in fact state your opinion without self-censorship or an overexaggerated reluctance to say something that others disagree with. You can in fact state things clearly and concretely, however controversial. Others can disagree, but you do, after all, get to say things

One intern, assigned to cover an anti-choice event, became confused about how “You can’t say that anti-choicers are wrong–they have a viewpoint too. You really can’t say any viewpoint is wrong.” She actually became confused about her stand on abortion after hearing the fervent beliefs of anti-choicers. Not that she was convinced by the merits of their arguments–that would have been at least an honest mistake. It was her inability to hold any argument as being more valid than another, so that as long as there are competing positions on any topic, she seemed unable to take a stand on it. This, as I see it, is the cumulative effect of postmodern academic teachings on students of women’s studies these days. They are rendered unable to take even the most obvious of stands with any conviction.

The advent of postmodernism as the prevailing academic theory is of great significance, not only within academia but for feminist as well as progressive social movements. There are several problems with postmodernism, the first of which has to do with the way it has coopted some of the key insights of radical feminism, but stripped them of their political impact.

Radical feminism, diluted

One of the core insights of postmodernism is that everything is socially constructed–gender, race, class, personal attributes, etc. Postmodernists take great pains to elaborate on every nuance of every social system that has been constructed. There is great emphasis on constructions arising from particular places in the social order–a white rich American man will ascribe to a worldview that confirms and legitimizes his position. This is nothing new–radical feminists had this insight years ago–social systems profoundly shape and determine people’s lives in ways that don’t seem readily apparent–even intimate and personal aspects of people’s lives such as gender roles, sexuality, even their sense of self.

What is really interesting is the way postmodernists theorists write as though this is big news. Radical feminists have been saying this for years. And in a classic patriarchal reverse (a la Mary Daly), postmodernists accuse radical feminists of being essentialists, that is, believing that gender and other qualities are biological. That is precisely the opposite of what radical feminists have been saying all along–that since gender is so thoroughly socially constructed, it can be constructed differently, more equitably. Where radical feminists do part ways with postmodernists is their understanding of just what a difficult project this is to undertake. And the radical feminist view that this has not yet happened nor could it happen so facilely is why they are accused by postmodernists of being essentialist–because although it does not arise from biological differences, there is now a significant difference in the ways women and men are raised and socialized, hence there is currently a great difference in some ways. I think of postmodernists as a brand of “you’ve-come-a-long-way-baby” feminists–blithely in denial about just how deeply patriarchal conditioning runs and patriarchal institutions are entrenched.

Subverting the subordinate paradigm

In addition to the cooptation and subsequent dismissal of radical feminism, another even more insidious way postmodernism subverts the subordinate paradigm is the way some of the key insights, while claiming to allow more voices to speak, actually silence all voices, causing proponents of postmodernism to be muzzled and muddied in their speech and writing.

Postmodernism: the master’s tools

The hallmarks of postmodernist thinking are tools and methods that serve to reinforce the way things are now. Even while espousing radical politics, the cause of marginalized people, working against all oppressions, the tools of postmodernist thinking foil the project from the start. Some of the primary tools that have the effect of silencing speech are as follows:

Writing style–Although the obtuse writing style is an easy mark for criticism, it must be emphasized again that even highly educated people struggle with its nuances and meanings. As I have struggled to make it through the painfully dense and clumsy prose that is characteristic of postmodernist writers, I have discovered that the thinking underneath the layers of prose absolutely does not merit such convoluted presentation–the ideas are no more complex or complicated than ideas in progressive, marxist, feminist or other theories. This writing style is more than inconvenient and cumbersome–it has an effect.. As Katja Mikhailovich writes in Radically Speaking (see review in this issue) “My first response, and the response of many women I have talked with since, was to doubt my own intellect and ability to make meanings of these texts.” The effect (presumably unintended but effective nevertheless) is to create self-doubt in the intellectual abilities of the reader and to discourage students from theorizing about their own experiences and lives thereby making the connections necessary for radical consciousness and activism. The ability to create theory is relegated to those in authority–professors and their ilk. Even thoughtful and analytical students come to see theory making as excessively complex and out of their reach.

Another conspicuous feature of postmodern writing style is an abiding hesitancy and reluctance to say anything definitive. Witness the reflexive self-doubting parentheses and unanswered questions posed for effect. Also there is much “calling into question,” “moving toward a theory of…” and “calling for a discourse on…” in the place of definitive statements. Statements are frequently qualified out of existence. New words are made up almost daily (the old ones I presume are too precise in their meaning) which add mystique and uncertainty about what is really meant. Finally the advent of the irritating, unnecessary, and inappropriate “s” on the end of every other word rounds out the obfuscation (added even to nouns which are already plural)–”knowledges,” “discourses,” or “positionalities.”

It is ironic that with this prolific onslaught of postmodern verbiage and theory, hardly anything is in fact said. Sheila Jeffreys points out in Radically Speaking that “…in post-modernist feminist writing there is much agonising on how hard it is to speak or write.” The net effect of all this is to silence and muzzle speech and to inhibit taking a strong clear passionate stand on anything.

Denunciation of the meta-narrative–For the uninitiated, a “meta-narrative” is an explanatory statement–one that attempts to explain something as a generalizable concept rather than simply describe a specific individual situation without any generalizations. So according to postmodernists, any time someone uses the dreaded “meta-narrative,” they may be suppressing and silencing other voices. If you are willing to say something definitive, someone somewhere is bound to disagree. If you are saying something with which no one disagrees or no one feels is wrong, you are probably not challenging the status quo (or anything for that matter). It is a grave mistake, however, to conclude that you must self censor because, by speaking, you silence others’ speech.

The other feature of the denunciation of the “meta-narrative” is that it effectively subverts the meaning of the personal is the political. In postmodernism, the personal, rather than being the political, becomes only and exclusively the personal–any attempt to create bonds between oppressed individuals or to raise consciousness about how individual experiences are really reflective of larger social forces is reinterpreted as silencing other voices. Any attempt to make generalizations is seen as silencing and rendering invisible those people for whom the generalization does not apply. This defies a basic understanding of the concept of a generalization–of course it is not true for every single person in the group–it is, after all, a generalization. Exceptions alone do not, however, disprove the validity of generalizations. If I make a generalization that people stop at red lights while driving, certainly it is true that occasionally, some people do not; however it is an accurate and useful statement that people stop at red lights. It describes, with reasonable accuracy, a social phenomenon. To say that the generalization is not true simply because a few people do not fit it, is ludicrous and leaves us unable to describe or name even the most obvious social norms.

The overall effect of this turn away from “meta-narratives” is to stop people from being able to describe their social conditions, from being able to generalize about personal experiences in their lives, from being able to see the commonalities of experience that can mobilize them to see problems as political rather than personal. The net effect is a lot of women’s studies students saying, “You can’t really say that,” about even the most basic truths.

Denunciation of binarisms–Binary thinking involves thinking in dualistic mutually exclusive categories such as good or bad, gay or straight, woman or man, etc. In postmodern thinking, binarisms are bad (that in itself is an unavoidable binarism). Some theorists say that binarisms are the root of all oppression–that without them we could not oppress others. Unfortunately, without binarisms, we also cannot make a definitive statement. Making a statement, especially a political one, requires that we say one thing is better than (or worse than) in some way than another thing. If we avoid binarisms (a feat which some postmodernist writers do manage to approach in their flailingly uncertain prose), we cannot say, for example, liberation is better than oppression, being fed is better than starving, being healthy is better than being sick.

By demonizing binarisms, the effect is to stifle clear articulate speech. People become so mired in trying to avoid choosing one thing over another that they are rendered incapable of sustaining a passionate conviction on any topic.

Taking the social out of social constructionism–What is perhaps most fascinating about postmodern theory is that for all the talk of how things are socially constructed, they forgot the implications of “social” in social construction. After their supposedly new insight that nearly everything is socially constructed, they do not advocate much for transformation at the social level, ie. for changes in institutions, social norms, social structures such as the family, etc. Instead there is much attention to individual acts of transgression of conventional social norms as a way of highlighting that social norms are constructed and not natural or inevitable. This kind of rebellion in postmodernism is a very isolated activity–it consists of individuals taking it upon themselves to fight battles all alone. There is not an emphasis among postmodern theorists for building a critical mass of people united in a social movement which could begin to effect changes at the social level. There is instead a very superficial understanding of the how social forces work–a naive and libertarian emphasis on individual actions and choices as though the cumulative effect of each isolated individual choice or action will effect largescale social transformation. The net effect of such an atomization of individual activities serves to prevent rather than foster social change.

The curious timing of postmodernism

What I find most interesting about postmodernism is not what postmodernists say about it, but how it functions in the real world (and I’m assuming there is one) in terms of social change. The effects of the intimidating and obfuscating writing style, of inhibiting generalizations and so the formation of commonalities between people, of ruling out binary thinking and so eviscerating impassioned convictions, and of overemphasizing individual rather than collective action is to create a multilayered system of disconnection, silencing, and disempowerment.

What is also interesting is the timing of the advent of postmodernist theory. As Somer Brodribb and Barbara Christian point out in Radically Speaking, postmodernism came into vogue in academia just when the voices of women and people of color began to assert a significant presence there. It seems that when groups other than those in power attempt to say things, suddenly truth dissolves into meaninglessness. This is a little too coincidental for my taste.

The coincidence becomes even more striking when it becomes apparent that this is not the first time this has happened. Right after the first wave of feminism, in the 1920s, when women had made some advances, had gotten the vote, and began to gain some access to academia, another nihilistic kind of theorizing became the rage in academia–relativism and existentialism. Again, just when women were trying to gain access, and to articulate our points of view, suddenly nothing was meaningful anymore, everything was relative, and meaninglessness was lauded as high theory.

I suggest that postmodernism is nothing more than the new relativism and that relativistic theories emerge as a new line of defense when power structures are becoming threatened. It is a very insidious and crafty defense because it mouths the words of liberation while simultaneously transforming them into meaninglessness. The real agenda is masked in clever obfuscation–to preserve the status quo by rendering dissent meaningless and ineffective, unable to gather any social or political power. Notwithstanding postmodernism’s purported intention to deconstruct social norms and by so doing, make way for changes, its actual effect is to atomize peoples’ experiences, obliterate the potential for solidarity, silence articulate and forthright speech, and render passionate convictions meaningless. It leaves us unable to condemn anything as wrong or oppressive with clarity, certainty, or conviction. Furthermore, nearly all of the so-called insights of postmodernism are simply rehashed and depoliticized versions of radical feminist ideas. Postmodernism is a theory which denounces the act of theorizing, it is speech that silences voices, it is writing that stultifies and obscures, it is a position which advocates no position at all, it is a politics which refuses to take a stand on anything. And we must see the politics of that–it is a viper that women’s studies and English departments have nursed to their collective bosoms. It is a theory, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It is a stealth theory that contains a virus which, once incorporated, explodes all possibility of impassioned righteous collective action for changing the conditions of our lives.”

And, today, in 2014, we can build on this article of 1999 to say that, apart from extremists such as MPAs (Male Privileged Agitators), “we” are “unable to condemn anything as wrong or oppressive with clarity, certainty, or conviction” – *except* radical feminism.

In her last paragraph she gets to the heart of why that is: postmodernism “mouths the words of liberation while simultaneously transforming them into meaninglessness. The real agenda is masked in clever obfuscation–to preserve the status quo by rendering dissent meaningless and ineffective, unable to gather any social or political power”

Taken from this link and with thanks to Jackie:
http://offourbacks.net/index.php/featured-articles-1/85-let-them-eat-text-the-real-politics-of-postmodernism

VALENTINE’S DAY: A PRODUCT OF COMPULSORY HETEROSEXUALITY

A year ago, I wrote this article:

http://sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/romantic-love-a-patriarchal-ploy-2

A year on and it’s all still true so I am re-publishing. I hope that women in their millions will ditch male supremacist illusions of romance and join the fight for women’s liberation on 14 January 2014 instead.

“Our deeply conditioned belief in “romantic love” keeps us in abusive relationships. We look for deeper meanings, we say that “he loves me really” when he fails to live up to any kind of basic human standard, or “I can change him”. A belief in “romantic love” overrides experiences of beatings, rapes and psychological torture. We will find it, no matter what. We must. All the messages we have received from birth tells us it is there – what is wrong with us that we can’t find it? We are taught we are incomplete human beings without the love of a man. We must suffer in the hope that one day we might be given it. For real.”

I will be joining other women tomorrow to do this: http://www.vday.org/home

Women’s silence cannot be bought with roses

 

 

“SISTERHOOD” IS MEANINGFUL

RIVALRY AND COMPETITION

The class of women learn to compete with other women; to see each other as rivals while constantly vying for male attention. From birth through to girlhood and into adulthood, male attention is something we are taught to aspire to. We should be prettier, thinner, more docile and appealing than the next girl/woman. We are also taught to disbelieve each other when we speak out and to protect men from other women by blaming those women for what men do. Some of the loudest rape apologists are women (1 of the women panellists on #bbcqt last night, for example, vociferously agreed with rape myths spouted by a male misogynist speaker).

COMPULSORY HETEROSEXUALITY

This is not an unhappy coincidence. It is part of the social construction of compulsory heterosexuality where women are emotionally, financially and physically bound to men. That dependence is deeply tied to self-esteem, self-worth and our very sense of self. I actually remember, pre-feminist days, saying, and thinking, that I didn’t “get on with” other women much. How many (heterosexual) women say “I prefer men’s company“? That’s because other women are only good for confidences when talking about men and problems with men. Everything about compulsory heterosexuality is centred on the needs of men – including relationships between women.  Other women sustain us in our relationships with men through their emotional support; they encourage us to see “the good” in him; they are there for us when we cry in frustration and despair. And we do the same for them. We have learned from a very young age that this is how our relationships with each other should go.

Only male supremacy benefits from this. We lose out. As part of compulsory heterosexuality, other women serve as cheerleaders for men and are our conditioning’s echo-chamber versus our lived experiences. The role of other women helps to tie us to compulsory heterosexuality rather than break free of it.

A lesbian friend of mine once observed how heterosexual women behaved in the showers at her local gym. “They scrub themselves in places I would only do at home. They do it because I am invisible. All other women are invisible. Only men are seen and matter to them.” This seems to me to be a microcosm of how relationships between women are played out under hetero-patriarchy.

FEMINIST/PRO-WOMAN CONSCIOUSNESS-RAISING

Whether it‘s too deeply entrenched for women to acknowledge it or not, we do know when heterosexual friends will always put men first. This teaches us how unimportant we are to other women. When we do find women we can relate to, in different ways, all kinds of possibilities open up. This  includes the possibilities that we can love this woman in all ways, including romantically, spiritually and sexually. It is one of the reasons why so many heterosexual women flirt with, or fall for, lesbians. They have never been treated as if they matter to other women. Many of us fall in love with our friends but. Compulsory heterosexuality! Only men are important. There’s lots of denial, selective memory loss and explaining this away instead of exploring the possibilities of love for women.

SEXUAL/ROMANTIC AND OTHER INTIMACY WITH WOMEN: DOOR UNLOCKED

When we realise we have been separated from each other by male supremacist ideas of competition and rivalry, it can be a significant shift in our feminist consciousness. It opens up a new world. It is the start of the possibilities of romantic and sexual love for other women. For many feminists, the political realisation that they can be pro-woman and counter their conditioning is a pivotal moment. Through feminist consciousness-raising, we realise that each individual woman we meet has something unique to value in and of itself. Chances are, she has not encountered that kind of full acceptance outside feminist circles. I certainly had not until I met lesbian feminists who showed me a new way of finding intimacy and care between women.

LINKING “SISTERHOOD” WITH SURVIVING MALE SEXUAL VIOLENCE

For many of us, our CR (consciousness-raising) involves coming to terms with ourselves as survivors of male sexual violence. And that almost every woman we meet is a survivor. We come to terms with the fact that our reality does not match the myths borne of male supremacy. As survivors, we are dismissed, disbelieved and not listened to. We know that it is the protection of men which is at the heart of society’s concerns and that we will be punished, blamed and ostracised if we dare to name our abuse and abusers. As feminists, we can ensure that women we meet know we believe them, that we listen to their truths and empathise and understand them. Our personal stories, and struggles, are rooted in submission, torture and abuse, as a subjugated class. If other feminists cannot hear us, who can?

WHAT “SISTERHOOD” IS NOT

All of this is what I call “sisterhood”. It is not a cult. It is not a way of saying “you must be in my group”. Far from it. In fact, meaningful “sisterhood” results in taking responsibility for our actions and behaviour towards other women, in keeping with our feminist ideology.

“SISTERHOOD” IS NOT “IDENTITY POLITICS”

In a recent article (I give the link below), about “sisterhood”, the concept is referred to as an “identity”. An important part of the CR process where women move towards (radical) feminism, is dismissed through labelling that process “identity politics” by a small minority of those involved with online radical feminism. There is nothing wrong with describing the ways in which feminism has impacted on our own individual lives and/or labelling it. In fact, it’s helpful to do so because it shows how the CR process interacts with feminist theory. Some write as though radical feminism has not changed them at all. They see it as an intellectual pursuit of no consequence to their daily lives or a rhetoric they spout which bears no relationship to how they behave. If this is the case, I question just how far radical feminism has truly reached them. We learn that the world is dominated by male supremacy, that our class has soaked up, and internalised, that domination, – and yet that has not affected us and the way we live our own lives? Wow. Incredible.

ONLINE “SISTERHOOD”

Online “sisterhood” is believing other women about their own experiences under patriarchy, understanding other women when they are in trauma, yes, holding women accountable for what they do, but also understanding why women may lash out in trauma and distress at each other. In order to understand, we do need to be able to communicate with each other, to articulate where things have gone wrong, and where we have made mistakes.

The online climate of being able to move on far more easily than IRL (a simple click of a block or defriend button on Facebook and poof! the problem has disappeared), without even attempting to resolve conflict, is all too easy. The impermanent, spontaneous way of communicating over the internet does impact heavily on the concept of “sisterhood” because there is often not the opportunities to communicate differently. Text communications are easily misunderstood and misinterpreted and that adds to our challenges (I wrote a more detailed blog post about this subject http://sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/making-the-internet-work-for-radical-feminism/  )

We all make mistakes, mis-communicate or misunderstand each other. “Feminist ethics” means that we hold ourselves to account so that we can learn how to do better in our attempts to collectively sustain a movement. That has always been an ongoing challenge for feminism.

CHALLENGES TO “SISTERHOOD”

However, we face another challenge which is distinctly contemporary. The whole phenomenon of online blog posts, of immediate interaction with hundreds, if not thousands, of others, simultaneously, encourages egos, egotism and allows narcissists and psychopaths to come to the fore and take centre stage. Some of those women use the rhetoric of “sisterhood” in order to control, influence and manipulate. Observations over time may make it clear who is doing this. Similar patterns enact themselves in all spheres of online spaces (I’ve been around and watched the same phenomenon develop over and over in a variety of spaces. A friend watched one person being scapegoated and hounded out of a seemingly innocuous online forum about classical music!).

After a while of observation, it may be clear who is in the online (radical) feminist space for the thrills of non-stop conflict and trolling and ego-massaging and who is there because of commitment to the fight against injustice towards women, as a class, and individually. We should take our observations seriously, act accordingly, and not be afraid to face up to abusive behaviour even though it runs counter to the concept of “sisterhood”. “sisterhood” should not cloud our judgement to such an extent that we ignore unethical behaviour. I have recently experienced appalling behaviour with some elaborate cover-ups – my bottom line is this: If specific behaviour would not be tolerated within patriarchy, then I am fucked if I’ll put up with it in the name of “sisterhood” activism.

THE LONG TERM GOAL OF DESTROYING PATRIARCHY

I am arguing that the political notion of “sisterhood” is very far removed from a “cult” or an empty, sickly promise of love and care forever more. It is a political strategy within the fight to end male supremacy. We cannot even begin to tackle male entitlement if we have not freed ourselves of the condition which sets up other women for our ridicule, contempt, rivalry, hatred and competition.

Destroying patriarchy is a long-term goal. It probably won’t happen in our life times. In the meantime, we have to sustain our political activism if we are to start building the “bricks of resistance” (I think that’s a mis(?)quote from Lierre Keith). We start with undoing the conditioning which has kept us from each other. By teaching ourselves, and each other, that it is possible to value, love and care for other women. We cannot fight patriarchy if we are kept apart. No class at war goes into the fray divided and separated.

Only by learning how to provide sustainable alternatives to patriarchy can we truly build on top of “sisterhood”. “Sisterhood”, like lesbian feminist communities for radical lesbian feminists, sustains us when we ride into battle with patriarchy. If we don’t have alternatives where we can breathe freely, all we have is war without end and we burn out and our activism dies.

For a completely alternative view to the concept of “sisterhood” read this:   http://witchwind.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/sisterhood-sisterhood-thoughts-on-identity-and-what-it-does-to-radical-feminism/

THE QUEERIFICATION OF FEMINIST CONCEPTS – “OBJECTIFYING”

In this topsy-turvy  queer world, words mean anything and nothing. An increasingly common pattern is for queer ideology to take long-established feminist concepts, twist them, and then use them to argue against feminist positions. At a later date, I may explore other situations where this has happened . For this blog post, I am focusing on the word “objectifying”. The dictionary definition of “objectifying” is to treat someone as an object, not a person.

“Objectifying” is the word used by feminists to describe how women are routinely sexually objectified by men to be no more than the sum of our body parts. It does not mean describing a body part, it does not mean naming a body part. It means the ways in which our bodies are re-branded, airbrushed and disembodied to the point that we are no longer recognisably human. Our bodies are detached from our humanity for male consumption. We are so sexualised by a patriarchal society that sub-human is the default position for “woman“. There is a constant onslaught of objectified images in the malestream media which tell us, and men, our real place in this society.

Some transactivists argue that radical feminists are “objectifying” when they point out that women don’t have penis’. They say radical feminists are “objectifying” men who have penis’ and dress as, or perceive themselves to be, women. Radical feminists are analysing gender and biology in relation to trans and queer theory when they make observations like “women don‘t have penis‘”. Distorting the feminist concept of “objectification” for opposing political purposes is a reversal in a long line of reversals.

A campaign was started by @invisiblechoice -The Invisible Men project a few days ago with the launch of her artwork. I am joining in and observing the campaign.  It is frustrating to watch how pro-sex industry supporters completely distort the feminist context of “objectifying”. The campaign highlights how @amnestyuk is using the rhetoric of pimps/punters/men in their approach towards the exploitation and abuse of prostituted women. One person distortedly claimed: “Telling sex workers that they’re being bought is objectifying them”. Naming a simple truth is now “objectifying” in queer merry-go-round world.

Yet another, on a discussion thread, in a complete reversal, said:  “feminist sex workers are being objectified as victims”

Suddenly, it’s not men who sexually objectify women, it’s feminists. We are “objectifying” by pointing out that women, as a class, are abused and exploited. We are “objectifying” because we condemn a patriarchal society which normalises the displaying, selling and buying of women’s bodies. We are “objectifying” for condemning a multi-million sex industry which uses and abuses the objectification of women to make a profit. All women are oppressed and objectified because this happens. It has nothing to do with “choice”. No woman has a choice. No woman can ignore or escape this mass exploitation and objectification. It is something which we are forced to consider each day, every day, as we attempt to go about our lives.

In a parallel situation with transactivism, the political description of women being bought and sold for sexual slavery and abuse, of our body parts being disembodied, and on display, in all parts of the social media, has been whittled down to a simple matter of an individual’s “rights”. Those with  analysis about how society is structured to benefit the male class, are “oppressing” those with “rights” by describing that analysis in the public domain.

Survivors of the sex industry are at the forefront of most campaigns against prostitution. All women are affected by our bodies being used as commodities by the malestream. And, yet, the reversals never let up. Campaigns to end female exploitation “objectify” and “stigmatise” individual women currently caught up in the sex industry. The arguments could not be more different. As feminists, we are constantly having to pull them apart because words have come to mean anything and nothing.

Only feminists and, particularly radical feminists with our structural analysis, have our politics so distorted and manipulated by opponents from all sides of the malestream political spectrum.

In the meantime, @amnestyuk ’s “draft” (?) policy, has failed to grasp the problem and is repeating some of these reversals. This needs to be corrected. Here is what feminists have done so far:

 On Friday the 24th of January, an article by Julie Bindel exposed this leaked document from Amnesty International: http://www.scribd.com/doc/202126121/Amnesty-Prostitution-Policy-document You can read Julie’s article here, which points out it is an ‘abject inversion of the principles Amnesty International stands for’: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2544983/JULIE-BINDEL-An-abject-inversion-principles.html

In response to this, a visual campaign was started on Twitter from @invisiblechoice (The Invisible Men project), using the hashtag #QuestionsForAmnesty to draw attention to this leaked document, protesting with an Amnesty re-brand: http://www.protest-resources.tumblr.com. Women, in particular those who are survivors of prostitution, are in force, raising their objections to Amnesty’s language and proposals, and asking them why they see sexual access to women and girls as a male right and inevitability.

The Invisible Men project exposes the men who pay to access the bodies of women and girls in prostitution using their own words. You can read them here: : http://www.the-invisible-men.tumblr.com

Here is a statement from SPACE INTERNATIONAL (Survivors of Prostitution-Abuse Calling for Enlightenment) about Amnesty’s position on prostitution

http://spaceinternational.ie/public-statements/

MACHINES DON’T LIE

Originally posted on radicallesbianfeminists:

GUEST POST

I came across an article in Pink News about a machine to be used by Tesco (link at bottom). It will identify age and gender through facial-recognition scanning techniques. It will then use specific advertising aimed at people within that demographic. There are so many reasons to oppose Tesco already (tax avoidance, big corporation and so on). This is another. However, the focus of this article is the ideological sub-text in the Pink News story about the machine and transactivists.

The article concentrates on (yes you’ve guessed it!) ‘inclusiveness’. It alleges transgendered people will be identified and ‘triggered‘ by this software. “This use of this software is considerably concerning for members of the transgender community, who face the very real potential of being “outed” at the till”, says Tara Hewitt, in the article. (Let’s just ignore the ’transphobic’ (sic) obvious here that, if a machine can spot someone…

View original 475 more words

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

rubyfruit2:

Women’s truths cannot be dismissed.

Originally posted on radicallesbianfeminists:

Guest post

This is a belated thank you note to all the lesbian feminists – older women in particular – who welcomed me with open arms when I decided to become a lesbian.

You helped me discard almost three decades of pretty successful heterosexual training, and released me from the resignation that men or isolation (most likely both, since they go together) were my future.

There were things you could have warned me about the pain the intensity the pain the intensity fucking hell the pain and no they weren’t BDSM relationships but as men don’t compare and therefore provide no reference, you wouldn’t have prepared me anyway.

I haven’t looked back, and now it’s a revelation watching other women as they leave their husbands and boyfriends, and come out as lesbians with the same mixture of excitement, shell-shock and sense of coming home that I had. This wasn’t supposed…

View original 90 more words

Political Lesbian Myth Busting

Originally posted on radicallesbianfeminists:

Guest Post

Political lesbianism is not an ‘identity’, this is queer BS talk. Political lesbianism is a process. A process of understanding the ways in which we, and our sisters, have been personally damaged by the hetero-patriarchy. It is a recognition that, on a personal and political level, we do not have to be intimately involved with a system which is deeply damaging to us and we can love other women in all ways instead of competing with them or mistrusting them.

It is not purely about sexuality (who you are attracted to). Nor is it about ‘appropriating’ the word lesbian while maintaining all outward appearances of being heterosexual and enjoying heterosexual benefits, such as they are. Nor will it, by itself, dismantle patriarchy, though it is a step along the way. Many women have found it easier to be radical activists without the burden of dissonance ringing in their…

View original 1,682 more words

Collective Action

When we act, we do not act alone. When we speak, we do not speak alone. When we think, we do not think alone. The radical feminist movement is a collective political movement not a collection of individuals. The political steps we take should be for every woman who is, or could be, a radical feminist rather than driven by our own needs. Let’s use those political steps wisely. Rubyfruit2

THE DISRUPTION OF RADICAL FEMINIST DISCUSSION AND WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT

This blog post is a result of: observation and experience of online behaviour during the lead up to real life radical feminist activities, extensive discussion with radical feminist organisers of events in the UK and elsewhere in 2012 and 2013 and being an organiser myself.

A clear pattern is emerging in some countries in the Global North. The pattern is for political forces to unite in order to prevent, disrupt and lie about radical feminists coming together to discuss our political goals. They have correctly understood that, if we cannot meet, we cannot further radical feminist goals. They have correctly understood that women-only space is political within a radical feminist context. They have correctly understood the importance of radical feminists being able to define the boundaries of our political spaces, as is the case for all movements concerned with liberation from oppression.

The pattern itself is now taking a clear shape. The purpose of this blog is to define it. By defining it, we can identify how radical feminist activists can resist it in the future. Non-radical feminists would do well to heed the lessons too because, without a doubt, this pattern, if it continues to be successful, will be used to shut down all feminist, and other, debates about structural power. All that will be left will be discussion about individualism and the choice and rights of the individual – with the power structures that perpetuate oppression left unseen and undisturbed.

The repeated pattern takes this shape:

  • Continuously telling lies about what radical feminism is, particularly on twitter, facebook, tumblr and specific blogs and websites, with a focus on distorting and twisting what those who speak publically about radical feminism say.
  • The lies vary slightly but usually include variations of: radical feminists are killing, or contributing to the deaths of, transgendered people and wish to see transgendered people harmed or killed and/or radical feminists hate sex workers. If they can get away with it, they’ll also throw in how radical feminism is racist because it has a critique of gender as an oppressive tool against women (analogies are made between racism and “transphobia” (sic), merged together, and then repackaged as being exactly the same oppression).
  • A social media campaign of email protests at venues with the aim of shutting down the meeting (quite often accompanied by a veneer of pretence that this is not their aim at all) is launched. The emails are characteristically emotive, contain smears, and lies and are powerfully shocking because they paint the radical feminist movement as being full of aggression, hatred and violence towards sections of society
  • They threaten to punish the venue for hosting a radical feminist discussion “We will publically manacle you to their hateful ideology” (sic) a Male Privileged Agitator (MPA) blog told the London Irish Centre, shortly before Off To Work (the commercial sub-contractor concerned) pulled out of holding the RF2013 UK event
  • When they have threatened and intimidated the venues concerned enough to pull out, they then crow about how it’s *radical feminists* who have made this happen – through holding “unlawful” (sic) events and by being consumed with “hate speech” (which they then struggle to demonstrate) or by claiming that every woman who calls herself a radical feminist anywhere on the internet has written the manifesto we all dutifully follow and that her associations with the event has led to this sorry state of affairs.
  • They recycle these regurgitated lies and smears on a yearly basis, referring back to their past PR victories (agitators in Canada recently, for example, used the public words of an intimidated UK venue in 2012 against a Canadian based venue).
  • Having successfully intimidated and threatened small not-for-profit/commercial venues so that they’d pull out of hosting radical feminist discussion, they claim the beleaguered venue did so because radical feminist theory is “unlawful” (sic).
  • They bombard vocal radical feminist event organisers with threats of rape and other violence – this blog received several during the run-up to RF2013 in the UK

And so, the yearly cycle of lies, smears, threats and intimidation is complete.

WHO IS DOING THIS, HOW AND WHY

A PR machine in motion with strong, direct or indirect, political alliances between transactivists (these are people who support the individual rights of transgendered people above the right of oppressed groups to determine our own political boundaries, they are not necessarily transgendered people themselves), queer allies and their lefty, anti-radical feminist friends and other political groupings, particularly MRAs (or, as Ginny Brown describes them in her blog post “Male Privileged Agitators” (MPAs) ) :

http://www.zcommunications.org/leftist-men-arent-born-to-lead-radical-struggles-by-ginny-brown

(A piece well worth reading for other reasons and very connected to this pattern identified here). NOTE about the use of the acronym “MPA”: see bottom of blog post)

Transactivists act as “buffers” for male supremacist agendas by becoming the increasingly “acceptable face” of political opposition to radical feminism. It is clear that transactivists are being used by misogynists found within a variety of political groupings which actively support, and bolster, the oppression of women.  The language of hate, the distortion of radical feminist politics, is indistinguishable in the rhetoric of those who oppose us, politically.  For MPAs, transactivists are politically expedient. It’s very easy for men to paint a picture of oppressed and victimised groups being the root of the controversy surrounding radical feminism as opposed to the reality – which is that the very naming of our politics threatens patriarchy’s structure and practices.

There has been an increasing alliance between those who sit within the broad left and the “queer” agenda. In all these political spheres there has been a move away from understanding structural oppression and towards individual “choice”, “rights”, and autonomy since the rise of queer theory/post-modernism. The thinking has saturated it’s way through political movements and many women, active elsewhere, have unquestioningly put the “individual” and their “choices” on centre stage.

That agenda resonates with traditional right-wing rhetoric where it is argued that the “man in the street” (sic), that is, working class men, are able to “rise up through the ranks” (it’s all in the description!) and “make it to the top”, that is, are able to grab, for themselves, the riches that the rich already acquire through birth right. Although there are some isolated cases where this may have happened in order to prevent working class men’s revolts, the gap between rich and poor is increasing. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/feb/10/uk-super-rich-richer-as-majority-squeezed The poorest half of British people own less than 10% of the country’s wealth between them. Why? Because structural inequality perpetuates the status quo and this is backed up by successive government policies.

It seems the left can understand structural analysis, as it relates here, because men are involved in the struggle to end poverty. However, it appears that, within a contemporary political context, it is difficult for anyone, but radical feminists, to translate the structural inequality described with a class analysis between men and women. Instead, a raft of inaccurate political slurs are thrown in its place, leading to a groundswelling of resistance to radfem politics.  Job done for male supremacy.

Among the left, “naming and shaming” tactics used against commercial companies have been effective. Socialist groups have, for example, named commercial companies involved in “workfare” (a UK government scheme aimed at exploiting and demonising those on benefits) and many have backed down. The same technique is being used against any venue which takes a booking from radical feminist organisers. Most venues booked, are small, commercial or not-for-profit ventures who do not have the resources to resist the levels of intimidation involved.  In any case, we should understand that they have no reason to risk their business reputation or put staff at risk simply because a group they have no particular alliance with, wishes to use their premises.

When the left target companies/charities which engage in workfare, they have an agenda which is addressing structural inequality. When radical feminists are targeted, it is based on lies and distortions and is shutting down discussion about women’s structural oppression. Male supremacy in the left and right and queer-allied movements is exposed for us all to observe.

RADICAL FEMINIST RESISTANCE

Originally, this blog post went on to make tactical suggestions about how radical feminists can prevent the interruption of radical feminist discussions. I haven’t been certain whether to publish that part of the post so have erred on the side of caution. If known radical feminist activists would like a copy of it, I can send it by email. They are suggestions which have been successful in our recent herstory of activism.

NOTE: Ginny credits Max Dashu for the term “MPA”. Given this small, but organised, group of men are getting more vocal (and we already know that vocal men under patriarchy don’t have to say or do much to be taken seriously), I shall be using the term from now on. Max says: “I see MRA (male rights activist) as using their language, similarly to “pro-life”. It’s not about “rights,” but about preserving historic male privilege, and i call them “agitators” rather than “activists” which is a positive word in my book. They are fighting for the continuation of women’s oppression.”

FOOTNOTE: For those skeptics who believe that threats, intimidation towards, and lies about, radical feminists are our fault because of our politics, see what is happening now to feminists who champion having a woman on the UK bank notes instead of it being an all-male line-up. It’s difficult to think of a more mainstream feminist campaign which poses little threat to patriarchy’s status quo and, yet, feminists involved are targeted with misogynistic threats and intimidation. http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2013/07/after-jane-austen-announcement-i-suffered-rape-threats-48-hours-im-still-confident-tro

HOW WE TREAT EACH OTHER MAKES A DIFFERENCE

rubyfruit2:

“Conflicts and failed communications are to be expected and can usually be resolved with honest dialogue and by sincerely owning one’s mistakes.”
How does the new, emerging fledgling radical feminist movement build this in from the very beginning of our activism?

Originally posted on Feminist Ethics:

How We Treat Each Other Makes a Difference

by Barbara Smith

What I would most like to share with future generations of people committed to working for justice is that how you treat people in the course of doing your work makes a difference. It is true that movement organizers often work under very challenging conditions, and we sometimes lay our anger and frustration at the feet of friends and allies who are much more accessible than the powerful who perpetuate the cruel systems of oppression we oppose. Conflicts and failed communications are to be expected and can usually be resolved with honest dialogue and by sincerely owning one’s mistakes.

What concerns me is the type of oblivious and self-involved behavior that becomes so pervasive that it saps energy and even breaks the spirits of those who encounter it. I think that there is a contradiction in claiming to work…

View original 374 more words

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 174 other followers

%d bloggers like this: