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