sisterhoodispowerful

Radical Feminist Resistance

Gas Mark Six

Originally posted on naefearty's Blog:

Here’s something I wrote when I was asked to speak alongside Sheila Jeffreys, who was speaking about her book “Gender Hurts”, about how transgenderism harms women. In the end, I didn’t say all this, but for those of you who are interested, here it is..

“For the longest of time I told no-one. It is only in the past few years that I have found the words to describe my experience. Thank you, Sheila Jeffreys, and the Radical Feminist community of bloggers for the gift of words.

I used to have an online friend (also a partner of a man who thought he was a woman) who likened the experience of being partnered to a transgender to the frog who is put into the pot of water and the heat gradually turned up till cooked – a deliberate programme of de-sensitisation as each limit is compromised or ignored, and each line…

View original 4,010 more words

ARE YOU ON THEBLOCKBOT’S HIT LIST YET?

A disturbing new cultural phenomenon is hitting social media. You only become aware of it when you are its victim or its perpetrator. The main victims are feminists.  But an ever-increasing pool of twitter users are targeted, including those falling into the bracket of: feminists, radical feminists, followers of radical feminists or feminists on twitter and anyone expressing any kind of sympathy for the radical feminist position that gender is harmful.

That amounts to a large pool of women (and others) who are finding voices to describe, and oppose, patriarchy and who, consequently, are being culturally sidelined.

Here is how it is happening:

If you’re on twitter, you may have noticed there’s an account called @TheBlockBot. If you’re like me, you probably moved swiftly on, with a vague tut, and thought no more about it.

Just recently, however, I’ve been piecing together an ominous pattern of male domination and control via social media – a pattern which goes beyond the usual attacks and misogynist accusations levelled at individual women. This is a concerted and collective effort to distort and automatically block out (hence the name “TheBlockBot”) the feminist position on social media.

George Orwell’s “1984″ imagined a state-led “Big Brother”. However, the one we actually have in 2014 is a technological domination which culturally and socially induces male supremacy. The state uses legislation and policy edicts to follow, and re-enforce, those patriarchal social norms. That is why we must take TheBlockBot and the varying other forms of coercion, intimidation, and distortions of feminism, in the social media seriously. There is no doubt these are initiated by regressive libertarians presenting themselves as the new vanguard. TheBlockBot is an example of this phenomenon in action and why I am highlighting it here. Towards the end of this post, I will give a further, recent, disturbing example.

@TheBlockBot is a user-invented twitter programme where anyone can add anyone else on twitter to a list of blockees if they commit dubious twitter “crimes” or even for being plain “annoying”.  Feminists aren’t doing our job if we’re not “annoying” patriarchy so that immediately puts us in the frame. “Annoying” is also highly subjective. Anyone at all not toeing the regressive political line is vulnerable for attack. In TheBlockBot’s own words: (TheBlockBot is) “a Twitter gadget that can be used by Twitter users to silently block trolls, abusers, bigots, and other unsavoury people.”

If a twitter user subscribes, they will then automatically block everyone on the hit list. Anyone can report anyone else. This creates a platform for resistance to feminist politics but also anyone with a grudge or dislike against anyone else can lump them in with “whorephobes” or “transphobes” (see my recent post  sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/the-truth-about-radical-feminism/ ) and instigate mass blockings. There are different levels of severity – level 1-4. From what I can make out, however, the different levels make no difference at all to the impact on the individual targeted by this application. Everyone on the list is equally blocked by the same number of people. The levels merely reflect the severity of the judgement laid at the door of individual twitter users.

This feature is not completely open and random despite its pretence that it seeks to protect those who use it. (It will) “remove some of the harassment that is usually directed your way” (TheBlockBot, FAQ). As we shall see, I am on this list and I have never “harassed” any individuals (by which I mean personally attacked or personalised political conflict on twitter). On twitter, the word “harassed”, a bit like the word “gender”, has come to mean anything anyone wants it to mean.  The political bias embedded in the programme is described in the discussion after the FAQ guidance. We’re told that “radfems” are worse than “MRAs” (these are groups of specific male supremacists who are concerned that male privilege is under attack) “Radfems” are worse because they “are well organised and have the ability to deny trans peoples rights, currently they are working with xtian ex-gay groups to influence the law” (TheBlackBot, December 2013) (Don’t let the facts get in your way before you make assertions and block)

Looking at the lists of “administrators” /”blockers”, unsurprisingly, we see there is an over-representation of transactivists/men.  A quick glance at some of their twitter accounts shows quite a mixed politics but most lean towards the political left and/or “alternative” politics. All seem to unquestioningly subscribe to queer theory which is on the opposite spectrum of feminism, particularly radical feminism.

Concerns are raised about how the programme curtails “free speech” by people posting in the comment section. TheBlockBot argues that being blocked on twitter is not limiting “free speech”, it’s simply about ignoring those whose opinions you wish to ignore (so which is it? Is it a block for when people harass you individually? Is it a feature to block out “annoyances” or is it available to blank out those who say anything which upsets your political sensibilities?) . They entirely miss the point when they say the application does not limit “free speech”. And the point is that, by blocking en masse, they create a social construction. They create an intention to marginalise and control feminist politics by de-humanising, targeting and demonizing individuals who express those politics on twitter. And it works. I have heard from many women that they are afraid to express their gender critical views for fear of being labelled and ostracised within their communities.

If social media is merely a functional place where you are free to ignore what, and who, you want, big corporations would not spend millions on how to communicate effectively on it, the press wouldn’t be quoting twitter “moods” and reality TV shows wouldn’t call for live tweeting. Twitter is a phenomenon which has Social Capital under patriarchy.

The fact that users are manipulating twitter for any political reason at all is unsettling by itself. When we add their rationale for placing feminists on the block, it becomes disturbing.

 

They have designed a function where you can search to see who is on the blocklist and decide whether you want to add someone if they aren’t already there. I assumed, as a gender-critical radical feminist who has never launched personal attacks on individuals, I would be there. I was not prepared for the reasons given. I was “reported” twice and placed in level 2/3 (not sure which – both appear under the report against my twitter name). It also doesn’t matter which because, by appearing on the list at all, there is auto blocking by unknown numbers of twitter users.

 
My “crimes” were pointing out that men invade female-only spaces for all kinds of reasons, including to be sexually violent. I even gave a link as an example – this one: http://www.torontosun.com/2014/02/15/a-sex-predators-sick-deception (The person responding could only remark on the right-wing nature of the media outlet the report could be found in). I have googled and not found one report or post, of whatever political flavour, which argues that this was NOT a man pretending to be trans. According to stavvers and her friends, this never happens. Linking to this one example, was enough to get me auto-blocked by potentially thousands of users.

 
My second “crime” was a defiant response when observing that some transactivists were targeting feminists through using a hashtag called #TERFweek. I knew the impact of such patterns of behaviour would be to intimidate feminists from discussing gender-critical observations and analysis. I said, therefore, that by producing such a hashtag they were targeting me – meaning that I would not allow myself to be separated from other radical feminists, not that I self-identified as a “TERF” (a term which is a slur and used to label and de-humanise political opponents).

 
@invisiblechoice, the innovative feminist art project, is on the list for being “anti-sex workers”. The project reports the words of johns with no analysis. The fact that this project is on the list at all shows the true agenda of those behind it – to discredit and distort feminist activism – as opposed to identifying those with “transphobic tendencies” (sic)

 

I saw other women I am following challenge misogyny and be placed on the list. It’s not exactly unsurprising that feminists, challenging the status quo, would be circled in such a way by men and transactivists using the excuse of “bigotry”. They do so with buckets full of deception about what radical feminism actually is, who is involved and what our motivation is.

 
It became clear to me as I read the reasons why women are added to the block, that it IS a contemporary mechanism to silence feminist voices and control all women who may dare to begin to question how oppressive the gender hierarchy is. Any feminist can be labelled a “TERF” when she does so, and be blocked. Women are already marginalised and feel reluctant to express feminist politics online, or anywhere, because of our subordinate status. This phenomenon is a new layer of attack, designed to re-enforce patriarchal norms by subverting our feminist messages so profoundly that we are the ones labelled “bigots” for fighting injustices against women. We STARTED the debate about gender and we have much, much more to say now, in 2014. For that, some are prepared to go a long way to dishonestly re-frame our politics as being inhumane and without compassion.

 
Riding in tandem with this feature, are numerous lies and distortions found on twitter. A few days ago, I read that some transactivists (I use that term to mean anyone who prioritises transrights above the rights of women) were organising a social, private, informal get-together via the public medium of twitter.

http://www.twitter.com/WomenCanSee/status/490318003406254080/photo/1

Took me a while to work this out, but, from what I can see, everyone involved in the conversation, except GID Watch and Voltinavoce, are all transactivists/men. My interpretation is that the man who wrote the tweet, although seemingly gave their immediate location away publically, didn’t produce a series of tweets to “stalk” (stalking means persistent unwanted attention including following someone and monitoring their whereabouts) as the transactivists go on to state happened, over and over. It was one tweet revealing someone had informed him of their location some time earlier.

 

Whatever this incident was about, and regardless of whichever non-radical feminist tweeted what, this has absolutely nothing to do with radical feminism or radical feminists. We are concerned with the liberation of women. Yet the stigmatisation and demonizing of radical feminists surrounds the myth as it rages on, with many believing the stories unquestioningly. It is a good illustration of how demonization of women takes place under patriarchy – men do things, women are to blame for what they do. A pattern repeated over and over.

 
This incident has been blown up like a fire in a forest. Statements such as “TERFS are telling each other where we are and ‘stalking’ us” are resonating across parts of twitter. The distortion, like many others, becomes a truth.  It looks to me like manipulative stage-management. I wish we could just dismiss it as twitter animosity but we can’t. This kind of manipulation is played out and has real life consequences. Our venues, our speakers are attacked and it’s these very kind of anecdotes (or quotes taken out of context) which is used to “prove” that radical feminists “hate” transactivists. It is an effective silencing tool. It is imperative that radical feminists are not silenced about something so harmful to women as gender.

 

(edit: post updated to include new information)

THE TRUTH ABOUT RADICAL FEMINISM

Once, in my distant herstory, I tweeted “The truth about radical feminism is deliberately obscured so women don’t hear it”. I still see those words, weeks/ months later, tweeted back into my timeline.

They are the only words which make sense of a bizarre, contemporary, situation where anti-feminist mirrors are held up to long-established (radical) feminist analysis. As with distorting mirrors at a carnival, the analysis is twisted and misused by radical feminist opponents. It’s a context where the world is amuck with appalling reversals such as claiming men with power are “victims”. It provides a path for libertarianism or individualism trumping all other political concerns. This is so even in movements about “radical social change“ (sic). The language, the rhetoric of “freedom” and “choice”, masks a dangerous anti-woman and anti-feminist backlash. It enables misogynists to claim victimhood and gain support for that claim.

It is not that this is happening which is the worrying factor here. It’s not a new pattern in history – the oppressor frequently claims that he must oppress more in order to bring about “freedom” for all. It is that so many people, from such a wide spectrum of political positions, including the left, are buying into it due, in large part, to the seductive rhetoric of post-modernism. In previous decades we could, at least, rely on socialists to recognise the importance of overthrowing existing oppressive structures. Now, we see the same groupings champion the rights of individuals to defend the status quo above calls for revolutionary change.

It is painful to watch those who believe themselves to be progressive war against radical feminists based on deception. Radical feminism names the structures and institutions of male supremacy (the class of men) as the root problem. The truth about radical feminism, and its emphasis on women’s liberation, is buried in a pit of lies, distortions and myths.

I am going to give a specific example of how these reversals work. I am then going to make a brief reference to the same phenomenon elsewhere. The two examples come from seemingly different groups of people but the parallels and similarities are so compelling that it is quite clear the same right-wing, male-supremacist ideology underpins them both.

The “Invisible Men project” (the-invisible-men.tumblr.com/) was recently part of an exhibition in Glasgow. The whole exhibition was objected to by those claiming to have an interest in “choice” and “freedom”. The “Invisible Men” project was particularly targeted for condemnation. It uses reviews on “Punternet” to reveal what men really think about women. This revelation is dangerous to those who have a multi-million dollar investment in the illusion of “choice” and “freedom” for women. Unsurprisingly, there was a backlash against the exhibition.

The sex industry lobbyists, and their friends, those bastions of anti-censorship, tried to prevent the exhibition from taking place. I am going to focus on the methods and language used in a petition started by them. It is a microcosm of what is happening everywhere there is feminist, and radical feminist, resistance to male supremacy. That, and the conditioning women experience to protect men above each other and ourselves, is a more powerful silencing weapon than a specially-built prison for feminist agitators.

The title is: “Remove the whorephobic “Invisible Men” exhibit which dehumanizes sex workers”

The most noticeable part of the petition is the use of “whorephobia” (sic) as an actual word which has meaning. It attempts to reframe feminist objections to women being used as disposable male commodities as some kind of deep-seated fear of other women. Every woman is caught up in the sex industry; in the idea that women exist for men’s pleasure/entertainment, and can be bought and sold for our bodies. Our very society is built on that foundation. There is no “them” and “us”. All women need to be invested in destroying a society where this is legitimized in order to free our class. Many radical feminists are survivors of the sex industry and speak out about that experience. All women experience the dehumanization described in the Punternet “reviews” because the words are not only directed towards individual women but towards women as a class. What makes the “Invisible Men” project powerful is having it laid out, in men’s own words; the truth for all to see.

Women who are prostituted are, of course, discriminated against and stigmatized, on top of the inhumane experience of being treated like a product to be reviewed, judged (and found wanting) by the male class. The fact that prostituted women are stigmatized within wider society is used to silence ex-prostituted women, radical feminists, and others, about abuse within prostitution. If we’re presented as “whorephobics”, who merely have a deep-seated fear of prostituted women, and of the “freedom” and “choice” “sex” itself brings, then we become the problem and not the men who abuse and buy women.

This reversal achieves several goals for the right-wingers.

  • It re-frames the “problem” as being CAUSED by the very women who are naming it (instead of the true oppressors, the male class) – the problem is presented as radical feminists trying to stop other women exercising “choice“ and “freedom“. This masks the naming of the real problem where a society finds it acceptable, even desirable, for men to buy, enslave and abuse women for their gratification.
  • It casts prostituted women as victims of those who name the problem (e.g. the petition and the “Invisible Men“ project), as opposed to the men who daily and routinely abuse, rape and murder prostituted women.
  • It casts “sex workers” (sic) as being like any other workers, without acknowledging the vulnerability and danger involved in situations where the power imbalance is so strong that it would be unacceptable in most other contexts.

The title of the petition continues the theme. Instead of acknowledging that it’s the words and actions of men who dehumanize and brutalise the class of women, as shown through the Invisible Men project, they attempt to deflect this by arguing that it’s those behind the project itself who are the dehumanizers. The world of reversals is complete.

The petition goes on to reveal a right-wing, male-supremacist agenda of needing to maintain women in slavery and abusive conditions. It states: “Reviews are a part of many service industries, as workers we have our own way of dealing with them …” The sentence normalizes the selling and buying of women by calling it a “service industry”. There is an acceptance, even a condoning, of women being judged by men on the basis of their looks, their physical body and how far they convince the man that the fantasises he is buying of the ever-available, ever-willing, woman is real. It’s not coming to mind that there’s another “service industry” where women are treated this way (with the exception of the institution of marriage and compulsory heterosexuality, upon which the concept that women are men’s property to buy and sell is built).

The petition, and other similar rhetoric, attempts to re-assemble radical feminism as a politics which addresses problems in isolation. In reality, radical feminism is a holistic politics, systematically naming women’s oppression and the need to dismantle patriarchy. This careful re-arrangement is deliberate because that makes it easier to reframe radical feminism as a force which attacks, and undermines, groups of stigmatized women. It sets radical feminists up for the oppressor status. By presenting prostituted women as a separate and distinct group of women from all other women, fighting for “choice” and “freedom”, the systematic abuse in the sex industry can be ignored, hidden, glossed over and defended. Importantly, the whole argument can be presented, in 1 of many ironic reversals, as radical feminists oppressing, and attacking, prostituted women because of our “whorephobia”. These anti-feminist, pro multi-billion dollar sex industry lobbyists have found out that, if you make up a word involving “phobic”, you can stigmatise those fighting social injustice.

This whole process whereby radical feminist commentators, naming male supremacy, and its manifestations, are cast in the oppressor role is repeated in the exact same pattern, as above, in the queer/trans debate. It must be “transphobia” which makes us argue that “gender” is the platform which enables men as a class to oppress women as a class. We could go through a million and one petitions and objections to radical feminism in relation to gender, all along similar lines as the above example about the sex industry. However, shovel out all the rhetoric, the outrage, the language of the oppressed fighting for “freedom” and “choice” and what you end up with is the exact same thing – positions which justify the continuation of societies which uphold male supremacy. That is why the truth about radical feminism matters. And that is why, no matter what, there must always be radical feminists to tell it.

I can be found @rubyfruit2 on twitter

Chris Atchison – Johns Voice

rubyfruit2:

no credibility for those who hide behind ‘unbiased research’ http://atrickofthetrade.wordpress.com/ especially if it masks women’s suffering #C36

Originally posted on A Trick Of The Trade:

Meet Chris Atchison

drdick

Chris is a research associate at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

Special interest: Johns.

Chris regards himself as an expert in this area (elephant in the room) and puts himself forward as such to the media and policy makers.

Chris’ goal is to create a community identity for johns to convince the public that they are a richly diverse yet impossible-to-define tapestry of nice complex gentlemen. A community that absolutely MUST be consulted about prostitution law and policy.

To misrepresent johns as predators is to punish good men, and to criminalize those men means that WOMEN WILL DIE. 

Is that what you want?

The Justice Committee hearing – Canada

On 9 July 2014, Chris appeared before the Justice Committee examining Bill C-36, to present evidence that johns are nice and that context kills women. He drew from his two studies: Johns Voice and the Sex Safety Security project

Chris’ opening…

View original 1,191 more words

Dykes, allies and others.

Fighting men for women-only space through the ages

I am re-visiting the recent feminist fight-backs of the past by reading the few herstorical books written by feminists about revolutionary struggle, including the freedom-fighting undertaken by radical feminists during the 60′s/70s/80s. Reading old truths with eyes of hindsight can reveal new truths.

 

And it suddenly struck me  – women have always had to fight for women-only political space. For any oppressed class to foster revolutionary action, it has to have the freedom to decide its own goals. There is nothing new about that. What is new about contemporary times is that feminists are attacked virtually with  real life consequences (so-called feminists or feminist ‘allies’ conspiring to destroy, sabbotage and dismantle women-only political space).

 

We’ve always been allowed to meet together if the purpose is to re-enforce our gender oppression (e.g. hen parties, WI (Women Institute) meetings, cultural women-only activities, make-up evenings, ‘ann summers’ parties etc). We’ve been allowed to be in other women’s company for centuries provided:

  • the remit is narrow,
  • women present re-enforce compulsory heterosexuality and
  • the gender hierarchy is strengthened through the activities.

When we break through comp het to fight for our freedoms, men resist us meeting together as women with everything they know. It’s a repeat pattern – and blatantly there. If only more women would see it. They may look but we have been taught not to see.

 

For centuries, women were allowed women-only activities provided they fitted into the definition above. One marked period of resistence was when enough women believed that the right to vote would alleviate their oppression. They began organising to achieve this one main goal late 19th century-early 20th century.

Men resisted on all levels – the usual psychological warfare against specific women freedom fighters, and by physically preventing, intimidating and punishing women

The WSPU (the Women’s Social and Political Union) held an open-air meeting in 1907 in the north of England

“The mob then armed themselves with decayed vegetables from a nearby refuse heap and began to pelt suffragettes – who stubbornly continued their meeting for almost an hour. The mob then ran up a lane, hurling eggs and banana skins…Rioters (men) threw stones and even half-bricks, cracking one of the door panels” (Jill Liddington, “Wild Girls”, p131)

During the early 20th century, women appearing in the public domain to make political arguments about their rights was a step towards liberation. Men resisted. Women speakers and activists were physically attacked and called “unnatural”. Men demanded that they conformed to the expectations of their gender by remaining in the home and out of public political arenas.

 

In hindsight, the most powerful step taken by feminists towards liberation in the 60s-80s, was a recognition of the political power of women-only spaces. It began with CR groups. Groups of women recognised that men have made our traditional place in the home and away from societal decision-making. Over these decades, women fought men’s psychological warfare games aimed at stopping them meeting together in women-only spaces. Women were called ‘man-hater’ and ‘ugly’ and ‘lesbian’ (ha!). They steadfastly continued to pursue political goals in the interests of the female class within those spaces.

It always begins and ends with our own political spaces – only there can we think, dream and plan for a future with freedom.  The concept of our own space to escape male supremacy was so successful that a whole women’s sector was built by radical (many were lesbian) feminists.

The idea that women could meet to make things better for all women was becoming so well-established that male supremacy found a way to attack, discredit and destroy it. What better way to do that than from an incredibly regressive ideology disguised as the new progressive way forward. We can’t possibly tell who is a man or who is a woman, the argument goes, (without a degrading look at those genitals down there and that’s unthinkable bigotry).  We must, therefore, stop “policing” boundaries on gender lines. We must hold lesbian marches that are open to anyone who identifies any way they like, and we cannot have meetings where we ourselves define the boundaries unless men tell us it’s ok and we’re not “bigots” for our attempts to do so. In one short generation, women-only space is under attack again. As (some liberal etc) feminists are beginning to find out, the use of queer ideology in feminist spaces is a way to silence and control all women; not just those scapegoated for naming the way gender hierarchy oppresses women for the benefit of men.

On 21 June 2014 it feels fitting to dedicate this blog post  to all the women who marched for their freedoms in 1908 in Hyde Park London, 106 years ago exactly. They believed that the right to vote would end their oppression. We now know it was barely even the beginning of our fight for liberation but it is entirely understandable that they risked so much to achieve that one main goal. It is also dedicated to UK radical lesbian feminists who cannot go on a ‘Dyke march’ around ‘visibility’ (oh the irony) in London today because men are more welcome than us and to the brave radical lesbian feminists who went anyway and demonstrated their concerns. #takebackdykemarch The two events falling on the same day is embedded in irony.

 

 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FEMALE

It was a hot day last Wednesday. I was enjoying the sunshine as I made my way to a bus-stop ready to go on a journey I’d never been on before. I had never been to the area at all. I was going for work purposes, my mind full of what I needed to do when I got there.

As I boarded the bus and approached the bus-driver, I was friendlier than I would normally be to a strange male. I have learned not to look at men, to give men no encouragement at all and to look miserable, stern and powerful as often as I possibly can in an effort to give them “fuck off” vibes. (Note: I know this is a tactic that doesn’t work but I do it anyway because the alternative is unbearable).

I was friendlier this time because I had no clue where to get off and I needed the bus-driver to tell me. I was there for work purposes and I couldn’t afford to get lost and be late. Unusually, I smiled and asked if he knew where the name of the street was. It was a conversation which lasted a while because he didn’t but he knew the name of another street which, I worked out, must be nearby. As the conversation went on, I realised he was being flirtatious. It was unmistakeable, the way his smile lingered and his eyes were intensely fixed on mine, dancing.

I gave a startled jump as I always do. No one ever told me that older women would be sexualised by men the way I am in public. I have been taught that we are ignored, invisible to men, are seen as asexual, but it’s not what i experience. This was a young man in his early 20s. Gentle in manner. Not overtly aggressive at all. Seemingly lacking in confidence and flirting in a shy, almost vulnerable, way.

It was too late for me to back down with my friendliness now or give off “fuck off I am a dyke” vibes. Satisfied he would tell me where to get off, I sat down, slightly taken aback at yet again having a man sexualise an ordinary situation but that was it. As a young woman, this was commonplace. I was never taken aback. I was used to it and had my strategies in place to deal with it. Now, I feel so unprepared, it always surprises me and I doubt myself. I feel alone with it.

I put these thoughts aside and concentrated on trying to find where I was going. Suddenly, without warning, the whole incident took on a darker twist. I was shaken out of my thoughts when I realised, to my horror, I was the only passenger on the bus. We suddenly sped along. His speed dramatically increased now I was the only passenger and I didn’t know why. My mind went into overdrive “Maybe he’s going to go off the route and take me somewhere isolated and remote. He KNOWS I don’t know where I am. I told him. Oh, fuck WHY did I give him that information? I never do this. When I jump into a taxi, I always pretend I know where I am going, even though I don’t. I told him because I had no other way of knowing when I’d arrived at my destination. Hang on a minute, he seemed gentle, yes? I mean, gentle doesn’t suggest sexual aggression.” And then i remembered countless stories about “gentle” men who turn sexually violent. Simultaneously incredulous, I panicked that I was in a hostage situation. It seemed totally unbelievable, even as my brain flashed through worse case scenarios.

That split feeling of not wanting to believe I am in danger whilst, at the same time, being filled with fear and desperately seeking escape routes is familiar to me. It’s there when I have been in danger at men’s hands. It’s there when I have escaped. I live with it. Daily.

My very slight discomfort at his sexualisation of our conversation had turned into overwhelming panic and anxiety. Here I was on a fast bus with no knowledge of where I was, or when, and how, this journey would end. My survivor instincts were on full alert.

I only calmed down when, at last, the bus slowed down and let another passenger on. I sighed with relief. We reached the end of the journey and I asked him where my stop was. All hint of friendliness completely gone from my voice. He told me it was the next one. It was. I got off.

I know radical feminists will understand the significance of this incident. I know I don’t have to explain that the ordinariness of my day contrasted with suddenly feeling trapped and imprisoned as the bus careered into the unknown. The instantaneous switch from every day life to uncertain danger unnerved and panicked me. I know I don’t have to explain that trivial moments in our daily routine can suddenly turn into possible life or death situations at the hands of men. i know I don’t have to emphasise that this happens to all women, everywhere, and that it’s a way for all men to dominate all women and that, as individual women, there are no easy escape routes. We are terrorised because of our sex. Because penis dominates, no matter how “gentle” the bearer of that weapon may seem to be.

I haven’t told any woman previously about this, though it has been playing on my mind. Not even my radical feminist friends. It’s too commonplace, too ordinary a story to tell. Something similar probably happened to them too that day. For a few minutes I was, yet again, terrorised by unwanted sexualisation and its potential consequences, just going about my daily life. And I am angry that I, like all women, must live my life like an imprisoned hostage.

PENIS REVULSION: IT’S UNDERSTANDABLE NOT ‘BIGOTRY’

Content note: This post contains references to internalised misogyny, anti-feminism, anti-lesbianism and a lot of radical lesbian feminist anger

 

This post is in response to the blogger “stavvers” post (linked below). In a nutshell, it argues that ‘genitals’ don’t, or shouldn’t, matter to anyone.

If only we could magic power and violence away like this, we’d be rid of patriarchy in no time. This is a typical queer approach to male supremacy: “power and control doesn’t exist IF WE SAY IT DOESN’T”

Blog post can be read here: (This is by someone who apparently says they’re a feminist. If you ARE an actual feminist you’ll be angered at how anti-woman the post is):

http://www.stavvers.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/shit-i-cannot-believe-needs-to-be-said-i-dont-dwell-on-your-genitals/

Let’s start off by laying my cards on the table here. I don’t believe in ‘natural’ anything when it comes to social organisation under male supremacy. Everything in the world is given social and political significance to benefit men, as a class, at the expense of women, as a class. Yes, especially the beloved penis. Penis is at the centre of male supremacy. Symbolically and in reality.

 

Penis has been used by men as a violent weapon against women for centuries. For centuries, women have been taught that, if they are revulsed by, or afraid of, penis, then there’s something wrong with them. They need therapy or medical intervention or their feelings ignored in favour of men’s ‘innate needs’ (sic). Lesbians have been given ECT, in days gone by, for rejecting men and their penis. It’s an established patriarchal lie that it is women who are at fault if they reject penis. They are ‘unnatural’, selfish, sick or mad.

 

Interestingly, for one who presents themselves as “intersectionalist”, Stavvers supports a medical model approach in relation to our genitals (see a range of writings by disabled feminist women about social model vs medical model e.g. Jenny Morris https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/hypatia/v016/16.4morris.html  ). Stavvers says that the only reason for anyone to be interested in genitals is for ‘medical assistance’ and even that “for the vast majority of us, is never going to be the case.”

 

So…stavvers has never read, never heard of, or is utterly disinterested in, the body of feminist work which criticises how, under patriarchy, men have appropriated the process of childbirth (e.g.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11251720 ). Women are medicalized, ‘treated’ and generally abused in the name of ‘medicine’ by institutionalized patriarchy – all for having their insignificant genitals and ability to reproduce.

 

Women who don’t give birth are rarer than those who do (an estimated 25% of the female population in the UK http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/9847642/Helen-Mirren-confronts-the-final-female-taboo.html ). This means that most women experience the unpleasantness of male intervention in relation to their genitals in the name of ‘medical assistance’ (sic) during childbirth. Even het women who don’t have children know the invasiveness of male-designed contraceptive options. This makes a nonsense of her argument that “for the vast majority of us, (‘medical assistance’ for their genitals) is never going to be the case”. Women’s ability to reproduce is controlled and regulated by male supremacy.

 

Female genitals – who has power over them and how they are characterized under male supremacist rule, especially compared to penis  – is a central feminist issue. That stavvers can so misunderstand this point that she reduces it to “essentialist”  almost defies belief. In queer land, it is a common, deliberate, manipulation of radical feminism to call the analysis of the connection between reproduction and female oppression “essentialist”.

 

It comes as no surprise, especially for those of us who’ve been observing the topsy-turvy political world of queer/trans/activists, that pressure for women to endure the penis is on the queer agenda. The slight “left field” is that the pressure comes from a so-called ‘left’ ‘alternative’ discourse (with an appealing revolutionary rhetoric but underpinned by an incredibly conservative agenda). Love the penis else you are a bigot “much of the time, it’s cis (sic) women, who are basically just bigots!” http://stavvers.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/shit-i-cannot-believe-needs-to-be-said-i-dont-dwell-on-your-genitals/#comment-17415

 

She goes on to reduce the social and political significance of penis as being merely about what can be done sexually – with or without the penis – between 2 people. Queers always reduces feminism to this because they have a politics which is a profoundly conservative form of individualism. As if, under patriarchy, we can all just forget the power structures in place, and focus on isolated sex acts regardless of who they are being done with or to.

Of course, many women know penis in a non-consensual context. We are raped and sexually abused, often numerous times, and know, therefore, that penis equals violent weapon within those personal experiences. But, hey, we’re just “bigots”. Meanwhile, it is acceptable for stavvers that a man rejecting his penis because of “gender dysphoria” is something other than bigotry. “I absolutely can entertain that this ties in with dysphoria!” she says enthusiastically (and then goes on to call “mostly cis (sic) women” bigots for our revulsion for penis). Look out, stavvers, your male-identification is showing.

 

There’s a bit of lesbophobia slipped in. She says she knows that men think about her ‘cunt’ (sic) all of the time.  Now, she’s worried that women too think about it so she doesn’t feel safe in women-only spaces either. Well, well, that sounds familiar as a stereotype, the predatory lesbian seeking out women’s vaginas to prey on. And, yeah totes, you feminist revolutionary you, women think about your genitals all the time. You went from women being concerned about safety from men to a  leap about other women being obsessed with your genitals?? WTF??

 

It is counter to the definition of lesbian that a penis is involved. Many lesbians and radical feminists before me have made that point. I add that it’s ok for any woman, whoever she is, to reject a penis in a world where penis has overwhelming significance as a weapon of power, control and violence. That, dear stavvers, is basic feminism. Whatever you are espousing in your blog post, it’s not feminist. Never will feminism be about calling women ‘bigots’ for rejecting men.

 

It’s just one argument among multitudes about why women rejecting men is called ‘bigotry’. And so, you might ask, “Why would anyone give this particular blog post any time or effort at all?”.  I would have a lot of sympathy for that perspective, I really would except……Unless radical lesbian feminists watch what’s happening and speak our  truths, anti-feminists, in the shape of ‘queer liberators’, will successfully re-enforce an age-old conservative agenda: women must accept men – in whatever form or shape male supremacy present itself – or else women are blamed or punished. It’s a position which has kept patriarchy intact for centuries – why would it change now?

 

 

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

 

 

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