Reflecting on the readings of Sonia Johnson

First of all I thank Delphyne for discussions on Sonia Johnson and the insights she shared, that enabled me to see things with more clarity.

I started with “Sisterwitch Conspiracy”, which blew my mind, then navigated to “Going out of our minds”, which also blew my mind, and recently went back up to “Out of this world: a fictionalised true-life adventure”, by her and Jade DeForest, which blew my mind too.

As far as i know, Sonia Johnson is the only radical feminist writer to explore areas which no other writers I know of have explored to this extent – or i have yet to discover them – things that I had begun to think about myself and discuss with close friends. These areas include the critique of sexuality itself and considering sexuality or sexualisation of women as inherently violent / dehumanising (and exploring why and how), experimenting non-sexualised (sadisised, invasive) ways of touching, of experiencing pleasure and relating to other women, working with the body to free ourselves from the physical memories of violence and men’s mindbindings, and her committment to integrity between her desire to live in a world free from men’s violence and her determination not to reproduce male violence in her own life and actions. It was refreshening too to read real-life experiences from a woman and her conclusions from it – you see and follow the process of experience and knowledge from the concrete to the abstract, rather than going straight to the abstract without knowing where it comes from.

This integrity between work / words and actions and reflexions upon it struck me as refreshingly rare too (one excellent book on relationships between women though is Janice Raymond’s a passion for friends).  when I first entered real life feminist groups, I was shocked to see how ridden with male-defending, horizontal violence and insecurity these groups were, and how little women were willing to examine the implications of their own behaviour  on feminism and women’s radical feminist work. Or at least the strong willingness to deny that men’s violence continued to impact very deeply on us, our thoughts, on the way we interacted and on our behaviour here and now, and thus to deny how they were making men’s work of destroying our liberation easier. And I thought if we didn’t adress that together, we’d naturally continue to shift into the destructive, annihilating group patterns and relationships that men structured us into: using men’s annihilating terror and silencing tactics, ideologies, lies, doing gynergy sucking, destructive and man-enhancening activities, etc. And that if we wanted to create a new world for ourselves without men and their violence, we’d better learn how to do that here and now, with ourselves, for ourselves – men won’t ever do that for us, nobody else than us can determine and experience what we need to do to be safe, free, healthy and strong. We need to trust in our own capacity to create a world for ourselves wherever we are, with the means we have at hand, and let go of the belief that others need to do it for us, that we depend on others for justice, peace etc. How else would it begin than with ourselves? Anyway, I was glad to see this adressed. I’m only skimming through these ideas and might address them later, this is just a derail by the way.

Sisterwitch Conspiracy was also the first book that definitely did it for me in seeing violence and rapism and sadism as inherently male, on an essential, whole level, beyond the biological determinism I had already come to.

Another reason I enjoyed Sonia Johnson so much is that everything is told in the form of stories and dialogues which are very pleasant to read and makes the point come accross with a lot of clarity. It makes it alive, and you imagine yourself sharing the discussions with her and her friends. It’s probably quite a manipulatory way of getting your ideas through, but it makes the reading pleasant anyway.

Now what I want to get to is that all the while I read her books, I’ve had this strong feeling of uncomfort with her notions of individuality. It annoyed me very much and while it seemed simple and yet different from what postmodernists say, especially because Sonia gets many things very right, it felt very wrong. I’ve finally got my head around it, that is, out of the confusion it caused me, so I’m going to lay it down here. A basic concept that she frequently repeats throughout her work is that

  1. we are ultimately responsible for what happens to us, and if we don’t get away from men it’s because we don’t want to.
  2. we can only free ourselves by working on ourselves,
  3. we can’t change other women, we can only change ourselves.

Now i’ll start with the two final assumptions, and go upwards. I agree with Sonia that it is pointless to try to control men, as much as it is pointless and counterproductive to try to control other women and oneself. As soon as you’re in the control mode, you’re going against freedom, against yourself, and against other women. By definition you can’t force someone to become free, nor can you force yourself to become free of male violence, or to be happy, or whatever. For example if a woman is currently being subjected to extreme domestic violence and I want to protect her but she refuses to talk to me (because she’s brainwashed by the male terrorist into believing that i’m evil), i can’t force her to listen to what I say. I have to respect what she’s capable of listening at X point in time, and I have to respect whatever strategies of survival she puts in place, even if it goes against her safety, or go with them and not against them. Same with myself. If I’m feeling pain I can’t force myself not to feel it any more. I have to take my pain into account, accept that it’s there and work on it from there: where it comes from, what violence caused it.

And trying to control men is counterproductive too because it’s another way for them to suck our gynergy: it’s doing things according to them and on their terms rather than according to ourselves, so it’s necessarily alienating and oppressive because their terms are always at our expense.

But Sonia confuses control with transformation. She thinks trying to change things outside of you = wanting to control things. This can be true, but it’s not necessarily true. In the same way wanting to change yourself might or might not be exercising control over yourself.  While you can’t control without it being tyrannical and violent and counterproductive, you can help women transform if they themselves are asking for this change and happen to be ready to hear and take in the message you want to convey at the moment you’re saying it. It’s them looking for the information they need, to go forward in their lives, and what you’re saying or doing happens to fit to what they needed at a given time, so they use the insights to transform their lives in the way that’s necessary for their survival. Or even if they can’t hear it now, it stays in their memory, and the day they are ready and safe enough to integrate the insights or will need it to move forward, their memory will make it resurge and they’ll use it. It might take days, weeks, months, years or even decades.

This transformation from the shadows, from destruction, despair, death, pain, sorrow, horror, shame, hatred and anger to light, joy, happiness, sharing, love, beauty, creativity, laughter; it can be shared and transmitted and it is one of the most beautiful things that life can give us. As women we are all capable of experiencing, sharing and transmitting this transformation.

And while I believe that it is fundamental to work on ourselves and improve the way we are able to protect ourselves from further violence, to free ourselves from the blocks that past and present male violence has ingrained in us, to work on the memory of violence in our body so we prevent the violence from repeating itself in our lives where we can, Sonia seems to think this self-transformation happens in a void and you can and should just choose to make it happen. She doesn’t seem to see that while we can influence the outside by changing ourselves, material, outside reality created by men also determines our capacity to change or not at a given time.

The reality is that this kind of work can only take place in a situation where we are relatively safe from torture and abuse, such as captivity to or ongoing exposure to an abusive father / parent, to an abusive husband / partner, to a pimp or trafficker, or torturer / captor of any kind (boss, colleague, brother, etc). You have to have had the possibility to escape  such kind of situations and not fall back into it again, before you can even think of going back to what you experienced and heal from it and transform it into something positive. Otherwise you literally just die from pain and stress, it is extremely dangerous to connect to our emotions in situations of threat, this is why it’s necessary to dissociate to survive. We don’t dissociate for fun. It’s a question of life and death. This is true literally, in the sense that men’s violence threatens our survival, and psychically, in that you can die of fear (caused by real threats / violence that is perceived as life-threatening).

The reality is that most women in such situations aren’t capable of getting out of it at the present time, because there’s no realistic escape, or the only escape is death or worse a situation. The second reality is that even after you’ve escaped the worse and once you’ve gained relative stability (only relative), you can’t do this transformation work alone, or only with much more difficulty, because much of healing, breaking the isolation, safety building, social changing and reparation and justice can only be done collectively (it can be just one other person, 2 or 3, but positive interaction is necessary), and we are so cut from one another and from feminism, even in feminist groups where we think we’re feminist and in fact very often we’re just doing what we know, that is, resenting women, being violent against women, even if we understood lots of things and are well-intentioned (it’s not always the case but more often than not).

Now I come to the first point: Sonia says something to the gist of: we choose what happens to us, and if men continue to inflict violence on us, it’s because we chose not to escape, or refused to escape. Here Sonia confuses choices and constraints, confuses responsibility for our own actions and responsibility for what others do to us, or chooses to see only the choices without the constraints. As women, we always make choices to survive. that is, all choices are always positive choices for survival within the constraints that men surround us with. Our body wants us to survive, we want to survive, so the choices and decisions we make are the result of conscious and unconscious processes, reactions to any given situation of threat and violence, the way we think is the best we can do according to the very real material, physical and psychic means we have at the time.

So yes, in that sense, whichever the situation we’re in, as long we’re still alive, we’re never passive, we always react in a given way according to what we perceive is best for our survival and according to what we are capable of doing, according to how far we have been destroyed or not: according to the tools we have at hand: material, physical and spiritual / mind.

But we can only choose so far as the external (and internalised) constraints allow us. We are certainly not responsible for the abusive situations we’ve been put in and for the fact that men have constrained us into survival strategies that are just as destructive as the violence they subject us to. It is essentially, naturally impossible to go against your own life, to make negative choices, so if we do make decisions that go against ourselves, we know they are not our decisions but those of the abuser / captor, imposed through violence – and it this external violence that creates this internal paradox, this contradiction between our will to survive and the fact that what we choose for our survival, destroys us – but it doesn’t belong to us. In other words, if we make decisions against ourselves, it’s because men have so constrained our choices that these were sadly, the only best options we could find for our survival at the time, (artificially constructed by men in such a way we think it’s US doing the choosing) which is excruciating and deliberately organises self-betrayal. Forcing us to opt for destroying and mutilating ourselves in order to escape even more intolerable forms of violence in the male world is the most efficient way to instil self-hatred, loss of self, sense of self-betrayal and of being abandoned by life. These are part of men’s genocidal tactics.

Believing in masochism, or that some women want to remain victims somehow, and Sonia johnson often goes there, is extremely victim-blaming and completely denies the existence, nature, purpose, intention and totalising effect of violence: to strip us of our autonomy. It blames victims for being crippled by men to the extent that we can’t walk out any more. It blames victims for the fact men’s terror tactics did their job of terrorising and colonising us.

The only reason Sonia and her friend could do the experiments they did at the time (early nineties) is because they had already freed themselves to the extent that they could be relatively safe from violence, individually, safe enough to go to the end of their thoughts, safe enough to express and relive and thus heal past trauma. The material, physical and psychological conditions they were in made this possible, they wouldn’t have been able to do this before because they wouldn’t have been safe enough and they wouldn’t have been ready. The body can’t jump steps. It takes each step one after the other. If it didn’t do something at some point, it’s because it couldn’t. It had taken Sonia Johnson decades between the moment she fled her husband and the mormon community, and the point where she was with Jade DeForest doing her experiments. She could not have done it faster because it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, because the material conditions and internal conditions wouldn’t have allowed it.

The only thing we are and can be responsible for is our actions to get away from the violence and preserve ourselves. This means that we alone can make the decisions to get out of the situation we’re trapped in, and have the will to do it. Nobody can do this for us. We alone can decide to do the job of decolonising ourselves from the violence we’ve been subjected to, and learn to protect ourselves from violence in the future. I agree with this. But as I said earlier, to believe that we don’t make choices for our own interest and survival,  assuming that we never tried hard enough to survive or that we aren’t doing our best to protect ourselves with the little means and options we have, is extremely insulting to women and all victims. If we know we’re safe enough to choose a better alternative, we take it immediately. We’re not stupid. If we can’t accept help or choose options even if from the outside it seems easy, it means there is real violence (past or present) that prevents us from taking it, and that making this move will put us in danger. Besides, what might seem from the outside like an insignificant change, might be an immense improvement at the cost of huge efforts for the victim (for instance managing to negotiate things from the abuser that he wouldn’t otherwise concede).

Sonia is right in that if we perceived things differently, things would be different. But this is precisely why men use violence to colonise our thoughts and change our perceptions: so we don’t act. Sonia’s mistake is to think that because men change our perceptions through violence, that violence is perceived, not real. This is wrong, because men’s violence is real, has real effects on our thoughts and actions, and for our thoughts to cease to be colonised by men’s brainwashing, the violence has to stop, or we have to get away from the violence. It can’t go the other way round, it’s not possible. We can’t change our perceptions of ourselves, of our external world and our capacities in a situation where the violence is still present. Something might happen with us that makes us get away from the violence, a breaking point, a light, an external hand, whatever, but only then, only after we have gotten away from the immediate danger, can we begin to change how we were forced to see ourselves.

To conclude, this is why getting girls and women away from men and ensuring our physical and emotional safety from men’s violence and all forms of violence must always be our utmost priority for women in general, as feminists. Focusing on healing and expirementing decolonisation from internalised male violence without thinking about the context we are in and whether this context makes it possible or not, is wishful thinking, and hurtful, because then we end up blaming ourselves for failing to achieve our goals, and this humiliates and hurts us.

I’ll stop this article here because it’s getting a bit long but I hope my point came accross.

50 Responses to “Reflecting on the readings of Sonia Johnson”

  1. 1 FCM June 9, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    thanks for writing about sonia johnson! if delphyne has additional insights i hope she will come around and talk about this too. when i read her books, out of order, i had similar responses to yours, mindblowing and original, and yet the individuality stuff seemed new agey etc and apparently a lot of women thought the same thing bc johnson addresses the criticism in a later book. i dont recall which one right now. not sisterwitch, but maybe the one right before it. she denied that her ideas were new agey and that they ignored womens context or political realities, but denying it and explaining why its not the same thing (and actually being right that theres a distinction or substantial distinction) is another matter isnt it? i also think shes not the best writer in the world and that there are likely no words for some of the stuff she is probably thinking, doing and realizing.

    that being said, what stuck out for me is certainly that her and her partner are both white, middle aged (jade is a bit younger that sonia i think), obviously monied (they earned it and werent given it, i think, but monied nonetheless) and just the beautiful home and property alone, if many women had the same thing, would give the advantage of time and safety we needed to do the same things she is doing. HOWEVER even with these things, many women cant or dont. and even women who dont have these advantages might have some small changes they could realistically make but they dont, and thats because of the mindbindings, the CHOICE (and it is a choice for some women some of the time) to have men around and perhaps most importantly the belief in reformism instead of radicalism, or real radical change and what that would actually look like. getting rid of the belief in reformism should or at least could be an easy change to make since its *just* a belief and not a material reality. but many women cant even do that! why not? she writes at length about her own work in reformist politics and about reformist politicking in general and why it will never liberate women. and shes obviously right.

    anyway thats enough for now, i will be back later with some more thoughts on sonia johnson. 😀 thanks for writing about her. i agree with you that her work is mindblowing and i think theres some real potential there, and that it deserves to be discussed.

  2. 2 witchwind June 9, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    thanks for your thoughts.

    HOWEVER even with these things, many women cant or dont. and even women who dont have these advantages might have some small changes they could realistically make but they dont, and thats because of the mindbindings, the CHOICE (and it is a choice for some women some of the time) to have men around and perhaps most importantly the belief in reformism instead of radicalism

    Choice and mindbindings are two different things though. If your mind is bound, your choices and actions are restrained by it, automatically. This is why men bind our minds, and use violence to bind our minds. If women fear to believe in radicalism it’s because there are real constraints that prevent us from believing in radicalism: it is past violence, present violence, and the witnessing of violence against other women, here and in other parts of the world, and in previous generations. It is men’s total control of society and the almost total suppression of any alternative thought or action. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but for instance to free ourselves from mindbindings, you have to be aware that your mind is bound for instance. You have to be aware that the trauma and suffering and anxiety you’re going through is directly related to men’s violence.

    Choosing to be around men and to do reformism goes against us. So it isn’t our choice, it’s men’s choice, since we wouldn’t choose it in a context other than as a survival strategy, and it’s in their interest that we continue to sustain men’s power at our expense. So if women fear radicalism we have to ask ourselves what is it that constrains us, what are the real external and internal impediments. Why it costs this or that women to let go of reformism for example. What does she fear of losing if she loses it, or what will she lose that she can’t let go of or will be too painful for her to deal with right now, or take much more time than it takes to just explain and understand immediately. How her existence is built around this or that. Why would it be so painful.

  3. 3 witchwind June 9, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    she correctly identifies the force of beliefs in changing reality, but what she fails to see or refuses to see is that beliefs can’t be changed just because they’re beliefs. Negative, mindbinding beliefs are rooted in the violence we were subjected to and we can’t get rid of these mindbindings if we don’t adress the violence that caused it, therefore the reality of the pain, sorrow, anger (and other responses) that are attached to the belief, the emotions from which the beliefs want to protect us from.

    Beliefs, especially those that are attached to the way we survived deep destruction of our being, can’t be changed in a second. We held on to these belief systems and ways of functioning because it was and is a way for us to survive particular life-threatening situations, and is a way of escaping extreme emotional pain, dread, fear that arose from these life-threatening situations (abuse from men, parents, partners, etc). To change such beliefs requires that we go back to the pain that we suffered at the time the abuse / violence / neglect occurred: we first have to release the pain and heal from it for our body to be reassured that we can let go of the belief system, that we don’t need it for our survival anymore, because the threat is gone. Once this is done, the beliefs shift automatically, or effortlessly. But this work is only possible if we have the time, physical and mental space to do it. and even still, it takes many many years to uncover the patterns, understand where they come from and undo the layers of dissociation. It’s not possible to do it in a context where we are psychically or physically invaded by harsh conditions or other people, whether it be men or women.

    Generally, once we are safe and ready to confront the pain associated to the mindbindings, the body does this work on its own anyway. All the stuff resurface one after the other. It simply won’t resurface if we’re not safe to do it, if we don’t have the time and space to do it. If we’re lucky enough, we have the capacity, time and support to work through it. Doing this takes an incredible amount of time. When things resurface, we might be physically incapacitated for weeks or days, maybe even months. It might be days and days of crying, vomiting, expulsing. Then it takes even longer for our body to shift and integrate new structures. When things like that happened to me, my body always chose a moment when I was staying with somebody for several days and that person wasn’t working and so could look after me.

    Sonia and Jade look after each other 24 / 7. They have managed to find a way of functioning mutually which allows them to stay together without oppressing each other and which allows them to have support for each other when they need it. this belief changing work can’t be done alone. support is necessary, interaction is necessary.

  4. 4 witchwind June 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    And yes, I think she responds to new age criticisms in sisterwitch. It was the first book I read and I’m pretty sure it was in that one. I don’t remember it was in “going out of this world”, and she had only only just begun to talk about it in going out of our minds, so i doubt it was that one.

  5. 5 FCM June 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    i also got the feeling that there were many women in their lives who were practically begging them for help and they refused to help them. it was uncomfortable to read that, bc i know that they wouldve been overrun by “boarders” and womens community types if they had allowed it, and thats not what they wanted, not to mention that womens communities fail and they knew better. but so many women wanted what they had, and to be a part of it, and part of it was likely that sonia and jade had a nice house and a nice property and the other women didnt, and were rather desperate for some *material* relief (safety and space and time) but none was forthcoming there or anywhere. so many women are in this position.

    i got the feeling that sonia and jade would agree with the statement that “not every woman shares the same fate” and its obviously true but….i dont know. this is part of the line they toe between new agey and something else i guess? or, its one of those things where i could see what she meant and that there was some truth there, but then the next second it tipped over to individualism that was dissonant. like they had already decided to “save themselves” and knew they would drown if they tried to help everyone else, which is true but…

    anyway, i think you have to be in a groove when reading her bc shes obviously in one herself. and its easy to slip out of it, as a reader. its something i sat with for a long time after i had finished the books and i am still sitting with it. like her statements about “deciding” to be free of patriarchy and then doing it, because if not now, when? obviously thats true, and we cant *never* take that step so there has to be some moment when we do, so why not now? i get it. but…

    which is what you are trying to work through with this post. so thanks!

  6. 6 FCM June 9, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    and i think she responded to the criticism in wildfire, did you read that one?

  7. 7 FCM June 10, 2013 at 12:09 am

    also, i just re-read your post, and i notice that you say that there are no shortcuts, that the body cannot jump steps. i think sonia johnson believes this is possible. if you disagree with her thats fine, but i dont think this was an oversight on her part, or something she didnt address. she thinks this is possible. this is the “metaphysics” of liberation she is talking about. part of what i enjoyed about reading her was that she made me question the things i *know* like that you have to “do the work” which is what patriarchal therapism says. she disagrees with this, and says its the long way around and deliberately so — its designed so that we *never* get there bc we are following rules that are mens laws (lies) and not natural laws. she is suggesting that we have no idea whats possible.

    i wrote this on the shortcut idea when i had just read all her books. the imagery i used was the wormhole, or a theoretical shortcut allowing for travel between 2 points *quicker* which is possible by bending space.

    again, if you disagree, thats fine, but i wanted to point out that it is a disagreement, and not an oversight on her part. she does address this.

  8. 8 witchwind June 10, 2013 at 10:33 am

    I didn’t get this from what i read so I wasn’t aware that I disagreed with her! Interesting that you link it to the wormhole thing. I hadn’t understood it that way in your post, because I didn’t know what wormholes were and the explanations on the internet didn’t make any sense to me. Now I understand why you used those graphics!

    How would you define a short cut, as opposed to “doing the work”? Do you have an idea what a short cut feels like, what makes it possible, what changes it brings?

    I do believe it’s possible to accelerate the steps or make it happen instantaneously rather than separated through time. But you can’t jump stages, as in leave stages behind before going to the next. I don’t think this is possible so maybe shortcut isn’t the right word.

    In “out of this world”, the process she describes is a non short cut one, she goes through things step by step: she uncovers one layer and then sees how she can uncover the next, and so on. She explains this in great detail. And it took Sonia 60 years of her life to reach the point she reached at the time she wrote “out of this world”, and today she must be in her late seventies I think. Her own example is not one of a short cut, but rather of a lengthy path and wisdom gained through lots of experience and commitment. Maybe it’s possible to uncover several layers at once, to make big leaps. But then again we fall back to the conditions that make it possible (both internal and external) for the metaphysical leap to take place. How do we clear the ground to create conditions for such a liberation.

  9. 9 FCM June 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    i would have to revisit the book to be sure. if i wanted to do that, and i might, i would revisit “going out of our minds: the metaphysics of liberation” and then “wildfire” which is the next book after that (i think?) and the one where she explains what she meant, and where the misunderstanding was (in her opinion) and why what she is saying isnt new agey/individualistic. she might be wrong of course, and there is no difference, but *she* thinks she is right (that theres a difference) and she tries to explain the difference.

    what i got from her books was that she believes that it is possible to be liberated NOW and that doing it any other way is taking the long way. so your belief that the internal changes can happen instantaneously might be similar, but i dont think she would agree that you have to clear a path, or do the work, or go step by step or any of that. re your point that she took a long time herself, i think she would respond that *she* took a long time to come to the realization that this can be done as a shortcut, but its not necessary that it take a long time. she was trying to encourage other women (i think) to not wait for the conditions to be right and to accept that they will never be right, and that this is a patriarchal ploy (the unfavorable conditions as well as getting us to believe that we have to change the conditions in order to be free (reformism), or even the added additional step of changing the conditions so that we are then free to “do the work” so that we can THEN be free (reformism + individualism, therapism)) ensuring that we never realize the shortcut and we never liberate ourselves.

    i think the “metaphysics” part was the important part. its part of the title afterall. 😀 she is saying theres another way, and she acknowledges that she is the cognitive minority in that belief/experience.

  10. 10 witchwind June 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I haven’t read wildfire yet so maybe that explains why i didn’t read about those points specifically, and why i’m not on the same page on everything.

    that’s interesting what you say, although i have difficulty imagining what is meant by it. What does she mean by being free then? Does it mean being free from male violence? If not, what kind of freedom would make us free in the presence of male violence? What’s the difference then?

    Let’s say it took her the long path to be able to figure out that kind of freedom then. But it’s the same thing to me. She couldn’t have found about it before. Why would we find about it any faster? She found about it because she took the path she took. If this freedom is so immediate, why can’t we all access it, despite trying to? Why is it not immediately understandable in her work? Why would they live in wildfire, cut ties with their families, with men and women they find toxic, and eat vegan organic food and stop eating refined sugar and such, if the freedom were immediate? If they take action to rid themselves of patriarchal thought and doing, then that in itself is creating a favourable condition to pursue a process of freeing. The experiments they do is constantly creating conditions to reconnect with their bodies and thus free themselves from patriarchal conditioning. To me there’s a very strong contradiction between what you’re saying and the way S and J act. Or if they mean what you say, then there’s a complete denial of the cause to effect from the work they did and the things they put in place to the results it had on them. In “out of this world” and in sisterwitch at least, they’re very clear certain about things to do and not to do, even when they say doing is male. It might be that what you make of it is something different still from what they talk about and do.

  11. 11 FCM June 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    maybe she thinks that she “decided” to be liberated NOW, and thats what allowed her to do the things she is talking about?

    all i can say is, “metaphysics” is part of the title. its relevant, or at least she thinks it is. maybe the trick is to figure out for yourself what she *must* mean in order for everything she says to make sense, and be internally consistent? you would have to trust that shes not talking out of her ass in order to do this. but it is *possible* that she wasnt talking out of her ass, or at least that what she was saying made sense to her. under what conditions would that be true? its a thought experiment that i often use with challenging writers. i think people must do that with my writing some of the time to figure out what i mean. or at least, it aggravates me when they dont. reading is hard work sometimes, even when we do our best to be good readers, and assuming the writers are doing their job too. its also possible that she didnt get it right or full right. and its possible that i am wrong, as you suggest.

    however. “metaphysics” is in the title. 😀 i keep saying that bc its true, and as a writer, i know the title is important. its an extreme condensation of the main points (the gist) of the work, in the authors own words. it cannot be disregarded. so, another way to look at it would be, where do *you* see metaphysics fitting into her world and her writing, and what do *you* think she meant?

    the questions you are asking are good questions, and her writing does invite them. but she does address it at least partially. i might have to re-read and see for myself. i agree that these are not easy books. if they werent self-published, likely no publisher wouldve touched them in fact.

  12. 12 FCM June 10, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    they might even be “bad” books. as i have said, when i first read them i thought they were very silly. but since radfem writing is so rare and precious, i tried to get out of them what i could. and i think there is something there, that might not be easy to get at or right on the surface. its like you can get into her groove if you are lucky, but its easy and predictable to fall out again. its elusive. but the *feeling* i was left with was undeniable, and its the main thing i got out of reading her. thats prob why i cant articulate here exactly what she meant, even though thats obvs what you want to know. i think as a writer, she succeeded in doing the (almost) impossible, which is to get women, the most and most horribly oppressed group in history, to be able to FEEL what it feels like to be free.

  13. 13 FCM June 10, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    or to be able to imagine that theres a better way, an easier way, and indeed *a way* to get there and that we can do this in our lifetimes, or even very very soon, or now. its something reformists in particular cannot imagine bc they have already decided that no meaningful change will occur in their lifetimes. for me, she put a crack in that, and some light shone through. 🙂

  14. 14 FCM June 10, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    or at least reformists accept that things will be better *later* if only they can get this bill passed, or this stereotype debunked, or facebook moderated better, or whatever. its not likely that they will become free *now* or even soon within this framework (obvs) so they dont even try to imagine being free now or soon, and indeed they cannot imagine it or feel it, or think it.

    sorry for comment spamming.

  15. 15 witchwind June 10, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    i think that’s a very good start and a very good point: the difference between deciding to become free NOW and expecting things to change only LATER. I’m definitely on the NOW side. It’s all the difference in the world. It means you put trust in yourself to create a free world for yourself here and now, with the means you have around you and within you. It means you’re not in constant dissonance or despair because you’re not waiting for something that’s outside of you, beyond our reach, in a distant future. It puts time and space together and brings things back with integrity.

  16. 16 witchwind June 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    It also means that you create the conditions for freedom here and now too. For instance, if we meet together, we think about how we can be free DURING this meeting, rather than think during the meeting only about how we can free women in a distant future.

    The disconnection from our lives and needs here and now is oppressive and alienating. what is the point of thinking about liberation if right now we’re reproducing oppression and preventing each other from freeing our minds from male conditioning? The connection of time, space, being, means and ends together, in the present, this talks to me. This is completely different from blaming women though, or saying they’re responsible for what happens to them. These are two different things. The former, is the reason why I enjoyed Sonia so much, that I got caught by the groove as you say. It’s funny, but I never found her silly, I took her very seriously actually, because she’s serious about it. but some things weren’t quite right and i had to put them right again. I’m glad we’re having this discussion because it makes things clearer

  17. 17 FCM June 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    if you are thinking “time and space” then i think you are on the right track. 😀 maybe read some more about metaphysics too, to see if you can get into her head a bit, and figure out where she was coming from and what she was thinking and thinking *about* when she was thinking and writing her books.

  18. 19 cherryblossomlife June 11, 2013 at 5:12 am

    HI WW,

    I don’t have so much time and the moment, but I wanted to talk about Sonia Johnson while she’s still a “hot topic”.

    I wrote a few posts about her a while ago because I remembered being impressed with her fight to flee the oppressiveness of the Mormon church. She is an incredible writer, a storyteller, really, even better than Dworkin in that respect. As I read “From Housewife to Heretic” and loved her description of the courtroom where she stated that she wished every woman who had ever fought for women’s rights had been there that day to witness what went took place that day.

    I bought Sisterwitch conspiracy, and I have to say I wasn’t that impressed! For a number of reasons. The first is that I realised afterwards it was only published recently (2010) whereas the topic has been done many times before. WHen I first heard about the book I assumed it was one of her old ones.
    Coming from Wales as I do, I grew haunted by the oppressive memories of the WItchcraze which hung in the air. I lived next to a deep, cold, dark river where they used to dunk women who were accused of being witches. THe atmosphere of Wales is steeped in this history. So of course whenever I read a book about women with the word “Witch” in the title (evoking the Witchcraze), I have high expectations. I want to learn something new. And Sisterwitch COnsipracy just didn’t hit the right note.
    I did find Caliban and the WItch interesting, because it gave some wonderful radfem historical insights, but as I was readin the Sisterwitch conspiracy, I felt I’d read it before somewhere.

    Just off the top of my head, I didn’t like her analysis of time. She said that time is a male invention, and that it serves patriarchy.
    Well, that’s true and and not true. Men didn’t invent time, they just know how to manipulate it to suit their ends. She spoke of the beauty of timelessness. Now, I can see that she means living by nature is close to timelessness, but she’s wrong. Nature is perfectly in synch with time, even with men’s watches. Nature creates time, not men. It creates the seasons. Time is very very important for sanity. The problem is that modern society has become obsessed with timekeeping. Yes the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

    I have been to places (in a spiritual sense) where time wasn’T important, and it wasn’t pleasant. Timelessness can exist on top of a mountain, sure, but we are human, we have evolved beyond the apes. Time is part of being human, and of our humanity. CUlture and society thrives on timekeeping, and I’m not all that sure that it was men that invented civilization, although they have certainly used the discoveries of civilization to serve their own purposes.

    So no, I disagree that timelessness is bliss. I disagree that a world without art and dancing and writing can ever be something that women could enjoy and be themselves. Women have always danced “for the Gods” (i.e for themselves) and it is only recently that patriarchy has misconstrued this, misunderstood this, and believed they were dancing for men.

    What I do agree with, is what Daly also noticed, that men’s form of timekeeping is what allows the death drive, the death march, to continue at its current pace. The sterility and order of their laws and rules, which are antithetical to women’s natures, help them keep control over nature and women. Their beat is 12. 12 hours in a day. 12 months in a year. But what men don’T notice is that nature sometimes adds an extra beat, now and again. 13 o’clock. That’s women’s beat, if they listen closely. The beat of the mountains and the seas. That’s timekeeping. The lunar calendar was the original way to keep time, which is much more in tune with women’s natures.

    But we need time, for sure. Don’t break the clocks because you can’T stand their ticking. Perhaps we just need to reinvent time. But we can’t live in timelessness, for that is madness.

  19. 20 cherryblossomlife June 11, 2013 at 5:24 am

    I grew *up* haunted by the oppressive memories, that was,

    Sorry, must work on my proofreading…

  20. 21 witchwind June 11, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Hi CBL, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    I understand what you mean about timelessness, I found her idea of a universe without time, without any doing at all, made me feel quite anxious. Also it’s tied to her definition of maleness, yet where does maleness begin or end? She doesn’t define it with much precision. Does maleness include consumption of life? Because in this current world there’s a fact that to survive and live, species must consume other species, whether vegetal, mineral, bacterial or animal – it’s still life in its different forms (plants and stones are very intelligent and sophisticated beings for instance). This is doing. Our being on earth and our entire biology in this physical, living form is dependent on being supplied sufficient quantities of energy (water, air and living beings). Although consumption doesn’t entail oppressive relations to the beings and the elements we consume (there is no need to hold them captive in order to consume them at some point), we do not know of any other life form (on earth) than this one at the moment. Even the stars and the planets have a life span. Sonia suggests that there are other life forms, and seems to suggest (although it’s not clear) that the current life form is maleness, in that the elements are separate from each other.

    but what i meant by connecting the past, present and future together in the present, does not mean timelessness. It means to cease to disconnect the times from each other. To cease to live in fragmented ways in general, because men’s violence fragments our body from our soul, fragments our present from the past and future, fragments our connection to the universe, etc. It means to stop living only for a future or according to a future that will never come, because it will always be in the future and therefore never exist. Men alienate us from the present in many, many ways. Hence her critique of doing too. The way men do is for an end goal, not for the process of doing in itself, or at least the process being the end, and the end being a process. Doing only for an endgoal is alienating, because not at one single moment you’re in a creative process, because you have to control what you do for it to conform to the end goal, and then it’s finished, like a dead end, dead object. It means you’re doing something dead. The process is not alive, it’s intended to be dead from the beginning. It’s also future oriented, which means you can’t experience the pleasure and power of doing as you’re doing it now, because you’re focused not on what you’re doing and how it feels, but on the end goal, in future. It is a very dissociating, unsatisfying and alienating way of living.

    It’s also related to the fact that men separate means and ends constantly. Men are goal-oriented (ejaculation-oriented) without any regards for means. Or in other words, men being goal/ejaculation-oriented means that destruction is necessarily the means for this goal. Always.

    Their notion of time, space, eveyrthing, is based on this; tension / ejaculatory release / high / low (death) circle. Women can experience this but it’s not our primary mode of being.

  21. 22 Sargasso Sea June 11, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Hi WW 🙂

    Just wanted to say that I’ve been following along – don’t have anything to add at the moment (busy, busy) – but am enjoying myself quite a lot!

  22. 23 Sargasso Sea June 11, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Whoops! I forgot to say that I’ve only read ‘out of our minds’ so…

  23. 24 cherryblossomlife June 12, 2013 at 10:02 am

    “Doing only for an endgoal is alienating, because not at one single moment you’re in a creative process, because you have to control what you do for it to conform to the end goal, and then it’s finished, like a dead end, dead object. It means you’re doing something dead. The process is not alive”

    There is so much in your comment WW, that all I can do is pick out a sentence or two and respond to that.

    Yes, of course! The concept of goals and doing something for the sake of the end result is probably maleness in a nutshell. That’s ego, of course. Do you remember Germaine Greer’s magnificent speech at “Town Hall” during the seventies. She wiped the floor with Norman Mailor, explaining how, and precisely why he wrote for ego, and that this was not real art at all.

    I also once read an interesting book called “The Continuum Concept”, written by an American woman called Jean Liedloff. It’s been passed off as a child-rearing book, and has been ridiculed by critics. And yet despite the ridicule (funnily enough) today’s child-rearing gurus use her work without crediting her. Anyway, she got her ideas from when she lived among an Amazonian tribe for a time. She observed them, worked as a nurse among them, and they seemed to accept her doing so. One of the observations she made was that althought the tribespeople sometimes chose the longest and most difficult path to do something. She mentioned collecting water, which of course has always been women’s job across time and place. Well, she said the water was collected in the afternoon, and to get to it you had to scramble down some slopes and pass through some tricky terrain to reach it. Liedoloff knew straight away that if they wanted to, the tribespeople could easily have fashioned some sort of pulley or contraption to get the water out of the stream more efficiently, because she had observed them constructing things during the time she was there. But they evidently chose not to. And the reason for that, she concluded, was that the women found collecting water to be pleasant.
    I’ve read that so many times. THat in Indian slums, the young teenage girl, whose job it was was to carry the water from the main founting, when interviewed, would laugh with joy when she talked about having to collect the family water. THat is where she’d meet her friends, chat, catch up on gossip, or whatever.

    So I would say that dreaming and poetry is what happens when you go to collect water the longest way round.

  24. 25 cherryblossomlife June 12, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    It would be argued from a western point of view, I suppose, that the women were so oppressed that they weren’t even “allowed” to have a machine to get water, plumbing etc.
    But we know by now that when westerners project their own cultural viewpoint onto other cultures, they hit brick walls, and remain stunted by their own ignorance. THink of the missionaries, God, how embarrasing, as a European, it is for me to reaise that Europeans went around the world teaching people how to live. And still today, they go on and on about how oppressive men of other races and cultures are, when the Europeans (and AMericans) have always been horrifically misogynistic themselves. It’s a spin, isn’t it. Get Western women to think that THOSE women over THERE have it much worse…

  25. 26 FCM June 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    in sisterwitch, didnt she suggest that we didnt need to eat or drink but just lived on air or something? there was literally NO doing from what i recall, no maintenance stuff and no domestic stuff. i think the purpose here was for us to IMAGINE what it would be like to do NOTHING so that we can see the ways that the male-made world means doing ALL THE TIME and that this is not living or be-ing.

    i enjoyed reading your points about time and being ww, and about the water gatherers cherry! thanks!

  26. 27 cherryblossomlife June 14, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Hi FCM, Yes, I’m sure that we don’t need to get all our energy from food. If you take a walk, and pick a flower, the energy of that flower can carry you for the next 100 paces or so. It transfers from the flower to you. If you walk in the rain, the energy from the rain carries you. That’s a secret a learned growing up in a country where it always rains unexpectedly, when you’ve never got an umbrella.
    Yes, she puts a good point forward about experiencing nothing, but as I said, I was raised right in the middle of nature. It was a gorgeous way to live when you wanted to experience timelessness, but just being in nature was never my happiest moments. My happiest moments was striving for perfection in some thing I wanted to do. That doesn’t mean I had a goal. It meant that for that. particular. moment. I wanted to see myself create perfection, as *I* defined it. Which we are all capable of.
    I think if you live in the country, as I have my whole life, and still do, your perspective of nature is different, in that you are less overwhelmed by its power. You see its power, and you want to move on. I really believe that’s how people evolved. It’s not that they got bored with nature, and with “being”, it’s that they simply found that they could DO more, that the nerves in the human body are DESIGNED for more than simply “being”. We are designed to create, to dance, to make art, to build things, and invent. That is simply what human beings are.

  27. 28 witchwind June 14, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    That’s interesting Cherry.

    First I’ll reply to the water carrying thing though. It’s an interesting point too, and i must admit that my first reaction WAS to think well, women are always the carriers in traditional patriarchies, because it’s one of the hardest work, all the hardest work is given to women-as-slaves, while men do the easy things, get lots of leasure time and time to rape, kill, conquer, do sports and improve on their political, economic, military, medical system of holdiing women captive for reproductive control. and it’s part of patriarchy too (whichever one) to keep women occupied with sometimes necessary, but often unnecessary or unnecessarily lengthened and over-complicated, dreary tasks as long as possible so we never have time to think or act. And even tasks that could be pleasant in certain conditions, they make it horrible, atrocious and alienating (for example looking after children).

    Think of ironing, dusting, spark cleanliness, brooming with a tiny hand broom in a way to have to bend down completely, all the “femininity” practices, and lots of other things that were INVENTED or deliberately made harder, to occupy women and keep them captive.

    And while it’s an imperialist male strategy to say “hey look over there, these women are more oppressed than your are, you have it sooo much better”, it’s also an imperialist western male strategy to exploit a false image of native people being so pure, egalitarian, matriarchal, wise, to sell their products (which they stole from these people). They might be closer to nature but they’re no less patriarchal and controlled by men than other societies, that is, as everywhere, men force their dicks on girls and women, keep them captive and force pregnancies on girls and women.

    This leads lots of women into idealising such peoples and it’s intended to make them believe that somewhere, men are good, close to nature, more respectful of women, etc, (new-agist cults, capitalists of all kinds and therapists of all kinds use this racist trope to trap women) when there is no evidence of this anywhere at all, at least where men are present. Colonialism is one patriarchy invading the other. And those that had most developed their killing skills and weapons, won the conquering game. But it was probably a matter of time before the others had reached that stage too.

    however this doesn’t change the fact that the women must have enjoyed fetching the water. And it is true also that western patriarchies have developed separation from nature and natural time more than any other patriarchy. But enjoyment in the process of doing and the reality of their conditions are two different things IMO.

  28. 29 witchwind June 14, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    I agree with the notion of creativity being core to our lives and being.

    I wanted to see myself create perfection, as *I* defined it. Which we are all capable of … You see its power, and you want to move on. … It’s not that they got bored with nature, and with “being”, it’s that they simply found that they could DO more … We are designed to create, to dance, to make art, to build things, and invent.

    this makes sense to me. We do have a capacity for infinite creativity and i believe that creativity, (but natural creativity, not male plastic-dead-rapism creativity) is the matter of human (female) life.

  29. 30 cherryblossomlife June 15, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Sure, but if men didn’t exist, women would still go to collect water the longest way round, wouldn’t they?

  30. 31 cherryblossomlife June 15, 2013 at 1:50 am

    I actually think it works the other way. The more cleaning and carrying and intricate work you do, the cleverer you become because you tap into certain nerves that otherwise wouldn’t be used.
    Look, almost all artwork has come from women. Lace, silk, pottery, the list goes on. Constructing homes is still women’s work in some parts of the world, So creating, the very act act of creating, actually makes you more intelligent by activating otherwise unused neurons in the brain. The same goes for physical activity (let’s say, water carrying). You have to figure out the best way to carry the water, then you have to figure out the best pot etc and all this “figuring out” creates intelligence.

    So lazing around planning battles or whatever actually makes you stupid because its when you’re doing other things that you get your best ideas. Men have literally created their own stupidity by getting women to do all the work.

  31. 32 cherryblossomlife June 15, 2013 at 2:25 am

    Okay, having gone and fed the cats 🙂 I realise that I’m playing devil’s advocate here WW. What I’m trying to do, is figure out a strategy. Because we can’T stop men from creating wars simply by asking them to stop. It doesn’t work. So we as women, have to use what what we know.

    I certainly wasn’t idealizing people from non-western cultures. Growing up working the farm myself I’m simply applying what I know from my own experiences to what I observe women of other cultures experience. I suppose I identify with people who live close to the land, that’s all. It’s not so much a western/eastern divide as a city/ country divide.

    (And no, I’m not saying that men around the world are more respectful than Westerners (let’s say WASPs, for example); what I’m saying is that they are certainly no *less* respecful, which is what we are lead to believe by the media.)

    Yes, men have by now amassed an enormous amount of power. But that doesn’t mean they’re more intelligent. So my argument that “women’s work” can make you intelligent still stands. Being intelligent and creative only takes you so far, though. I’m definitely of the opinion that the best thing to do is to starve men of our energy by ignoring them, for the most part. North Korea was supposed to bomb Japan recently. What did I do? Ignore the media. Sometimes if you ignore bullies, they go away. If you confront them, they feed off that energy and react to it. That’s rule #1 when it comes to bullies, isn’t it? And what are men if not a group of bullies for behaving the way they do towards women.

  32. 34 witchwind June 15, 2013 at 7:41 am

    that is true that crafty works makes you intelligent.

    although it isn’t true for femininity practices which destroys us (and take long hours), or the fact that men force us to work in conditions that are deliberately intended to maim us, our thoughts. and it still holds true that overburdening women with work, 12, 14 hours a day with innumerable tasks that we are forced to do alone and FOR men instead of just for ourselves or very young children, prevents us from having the time to think for ourselves, be with ourselves, organise ourselves to be free from men. And it changes nothing about the exploitative nature of the work.

    If women had more leisure time, I’m sure we would spend it on creative activities, not by doing nothing. But as opposed to the work we do now, we would choose what we’d want to do, the form we’d want our creativity to take, and decide when and how we’d want to do it. It wouldn’t be forced on us and our work and the products of our work and creativity wouldn’t be stolen and capitalised on by men.

    i agree that doing nothing makes you stupid. THough men are very crafty and intelligent in the unlimited ways in which they rape, kill and invade women and the universe.

  33. 35 witchwind June 15, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Not to forget that men block a considerable amount of our time by forcing us to develop strategies to avoid men, or to appease men, curtail men’s violence, asking them to stop, trying to change them or improve on their natures.

  34. 36 witchwind June 15, 2013 at 7:55 am

    to rephrase what i meant to say, my focus was more on time occupation to prevent women from meeting together and talking and doing the necessary to get away from men and protect ourselves as a group.

    also there’s a fear element, we do the work out of fear of reprisals because if we don’t do what men ask us to do, we will be punished. Or if we don’t do it the way they want us to do it, we will be punished. fear is thought, life and creativity-killing. So on one hand activities create neuronal connections, and on the other, fear kills and blocks neuronal connections, and the forced hardhsip of the work fractures and damages the body.

    To me it’s the difference between work done under slavery and work done freely / work that’s freeing and creative or made creative, and that respects who we are.

    The few times i’ve worked for a company i found it excruciating to have my work exploited, not to work because i wanted to but because i had to.

  35. 37 cherryblossomlife June 16, 2013 at 1:30 am

    I agree with everything you say. But Sonia Johnson’s book was about envisioning how women would be without the background noise of men. In that sense it was very pleasant to read.

    To illustrate my point, take camping. Plenty of people go camping every year.WHat happens on camping holidays is that people create work for themselves that they don’t actually need to do. Women go with their kids, not necessarily with a male partner, sometimes with their mother, sister or friend. At least that is what I saw when I used to go camping.
    So on the one hand you could say that creating unecessary physical work is one form of therapy that we can experience under oppressive conditions, but something tells me that this is not really what camping (just to take one example) is all about. It tells me that people feel constrained by their kitchens at home, that the lack of physical activity rots their brains and bodies, and they can feel this. Living outdoors is *completely* *irrational* and yet go to ***** this summer and you’ll see women handwashing clothes at campsites; go to Wales and you’ll see them washing their plates in the river. For those women who do live with men, they aren’t that oppressed that they couldn’t say to their male partners “NO, I’d rather stay in a hotel this year.” Of course they could, if they wanted to.

    Having said that, I have been camping in Japan, and seen a group of men bring along two token women to do the shitwork, so yeah…

    And for sure women don’t meet and organize out of fear of reprisals, but it’s nice to imagine how women would be, and live, outside of patriarchy. Let’s just try to ignore men and see what happens. This is honestly working for me. (Some people might call it denial…)

  36. 38 cherryblossomlife June 16, 2013 at 2:16 am

    Okay, let’s work politics into the conversation, so how about this. FCM has been working very hard for a while showing people that reformism, (in other words, involving ourselves in men’s institutions and systems) is wasted energy from the start. This is spot on. In fact reformism feeds men’s systems by providing it with the energy it needs. Meanwhile women’s status doesn’t change. As Greer noted, all that happens when women manage to fight their way into positions of status, is that the power moves into the back corridors. I think that many women are oblivious to the fact that political insitutions are just a front for patriarchy. At any rate, there’s no power in politics anymore. The politicians don’t have any power because it’s all gone to the corporations. Apparently some corporations have higher GDPs than some countries. So fighting by using politics, in men’s system, is already a lost battle. I can’t even watch when I see women fighting to get transwomen out of their spaces. The cards are stacked against them. Men are sitting back and laughing at the squabbles as they devise their next weapon, or the best way to get bodily tissues out of women (eggs, ovaries, whatever they want from us. Sorry for the digression…)

    Anyhow, “doing nothing” is indeed a viable political strategy! When Napoleon tried to invade Russia the Russian used the best strategy they could ever possibly have used. They retreated. Not out of fear, but because they had the land, and they didn’T even need to bother to fight. “Retreat” “Ignore” “Take stock” are the best political strategies that women have at our disposal.
    THen Hitler tried to invade Russian (silly silly man– hadn’T read his history) and the Russians did exactly the same tact. (Leningrad was under siege that time, that’s true, but H didn’t get further than that, as that city is right on the border).
    What I’m saying is, the main point of this convo is not about getting women all crafty.. It’s about finding our strenghs, and using them. Fighting and arguing with men, trying to show men where they’re “going wrong” is a complete waste of time. IT’s not even a strategy. What is that? Pleading with men not to make war. Pointing out the facts. HOW long have women been doing this for now?

  37. 39 FCM June 16, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    cherry when i read your description of the water-gathering i thought that if the task was complicated and arduous, and especially if it took the women onto tiny ledges, cramped caves or into thick brush or something that OF COURSE they would want to do this bc its unlikely that men would be able to follow them. so it would be a small taste of freedom from men and therefore pleasant in that way. of course, if its just a matter of walking across town or down the street, it makes them a target and this is an enormous problem for female water carriers globally.

    in the absence of men, perhaps water gathering wouldnt be a chore at all, but something we “picked up” while we were there. we would naturally congregate by water (esp fresh water) and would swim, sunbathe, exercise children and pets, play and relax there anyway, and bring a bucket back home when we were finished. 🙂

  38. 40 witchwind June 16, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    That’s a very nice image, FCM 🙂

    Very good point that men’s institutions (religion, state, law, medecine) are facades to make their power seem more official and real. I absolutely agree that politics today is just a complete front and facade for totalitarian corporate power. The only reason they keep the governments and pseudo-democracies today is to channel and paralyse resistance movements against social injustice (male and female alike) by allowing a modicum of protest freedom to the masses, and to let the state military / cops do the work of shutting down repression (when needed) for the corparations.

    Back to the doing vs not doing debate: retreating and refusal to give is still an action and a thoughtful strategy though. The fact that this is framed as “not doing” actually reinforces the reformist perspective that only reformism is “doing”, and anything else outside reformism (outside interacting and engaging with men, on their terms) is non-existent, doesn’t count, is not real, not doing. And between this retreat strategy and letting yourself die at the hands of the murderers out of despair and loss of hope, for instance, there is a LOT of difference, though according to the “doing = reformism” and “not doing = opposite of reformism” perspective, both would be counted as being the same.

  39. 41 witchwind June 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    In other words, framing it as “not doing” doesn’t cover at all the depth of thought, action and possibilities entailed in the “retreat from men” strategy. Because in this retreat or protection from men, there is also the creation of an infinity of new worlds and ways of living and interacting with women that didn’t exist before or that were unknown to us before (such as those that Sonia and Jade are exploring).

  40. 42 sallyarcher June 16, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Re: Witchwind above: “Believing in masochism, or that some women want to remain victims somehow, and Sonia johnson often goes there, is extremely victim-blaming and completely denies the existence, nature, purpose, intention and totalising effect of violence: to strip us of our autonomy. It blames victims for being crippled by men to the extent that we can’t walk out any more. It blames victims for the fact men’s terror tactics did their job of terrorising and colonising us.”

    You make a very good point. None of us are perfect, only perfectly imperfect, and when a rad-fem author has been so out there in her experimentation about women’s alternatives to patriarchy, imperfection can only be expected. I recently commented over at FCM’s blog, also re: Sonia Johnson and the futility of reformism within patriarchy. That comment was the positive take on my experience meeting and speaking at length with Sonia in 2006. The downside to my NM journey was my experience also of the following: (1) After writing a book ending with going off to form a women’s community (maybe before partnering with Jade, not sure), Sonia did so in NM and some of the “landdykes” I met there (in another setting) had horrible things to say about women feeling their “back-breaking” sweat equity in developing the land was not fairly compensated when Sonia gave up the communal project and sold the land that apparently the others lacked any title in; and (2) Jade indicated Sonia’s daughter “acted like such a victim” and Sonia indicated she had basically divorced her children, including this daughter, because of her belief that in patriarchy motherhood is impossibly difficult and Sonia therefore told her children that while she wished them well, she was no longer willing to be their mother.

    I have one daughter. Yes, the patriarchy has victimized (and men have victimized) her, as they likewise victimized me, just by living among them. Yes, her dad from whom I’m divorced did everything possible, every dirty trick and lie imaginable, to drive a wedge between us once she grew up. Yes, it has been painful, especially to see her reject my world view and try to accommodate with pretty & smart privileges as a recent summa cum laude college graduate to the world of men and, yes, PIV marriage to a man whom she believes is a good Nigel. Yes, I still hang in there, because she and all of our daughters are worth it. Yes, I still send birthday presents, text her cartoons and funny messages, field her infrequent phone calls when the truth at her core (rarely, given the mind-binding media onslaught) makes her want to reach out for her mom. Yes, she acts like a victim sometimes, and yes it is true that I literally brought her into a world that I was unable to re-make for her, hard though I tried, in womankind’s image. Yes, I keep believing in her, and that it’s just not time yet for her to see clearly. Yes, I believe all women including our daughters are worth it. Yes, I do not believe it is women’s fault. Yes, I put the causative agency on men and the social disaster they have globally made. And also I will not abandon my daughter. If I’d had sons, I might have been able to tell them what Sonia did all her male and female children [(2) above] but I thankfully only had one, a woman-baby, a girl from birth, a magical creature who I protected from the worst ravages of patriarchy to the best of my ability for as long as I could and, when I could not, I decided no power of man-made hell would make me give up on her no matter what.

    Like ’em or not, the Dixie Chicks in their final award-winning album (before patriarchal shunning and artistic shut down) not only sang about “not ready to make nice” but in context I take to be daughters: “How long do you want to be loved? Is forever enough, because I’m never ever giving you up.”

    I send you all that never-give-up kind of love.

  41. 43 FCM June 17, 2013 at 1:53 am

    im glad someone commented about the idea of “divorcing ones children”! i thought that was a terrible, short sighted idea and patently unfair to her daughter (to divorce both sons and daughters as if theres no difference). i took it personally and felt betrayed as if there was no feminist point to be made there, or that the feminist and woman-hating points canceled each other out. giving up on boys isnt contradictory (woman-hating) at all.

  42. 44 witchwind June 17, 2013 at 8:56 am

    yes thank you for addressing that daughter bit, I found it heartbraking and unfair too. Not just her but also her friend who came for a few days (in “going out of this world”) and saying that her daughter was being battered but she left her too, for the same reasons, and also saying that she acted like a victim. Divorcing males of all kinds, including sons, is necessary and different from divorcing daughters. There is no equivalence whatsoever. And saying that both sons and daughters behave in equal toxic and parasitic ways towards mothers without the possibility of forming a friendship or creating room for change is untrue.

    For men, as soon as they grow up, become more and more oppressive to women including mothers, this is not true for daughters, where the hierarchy and control of mother-over-daughter might stay intact way into the adulthood of the daughter, and continue to oppress her. To the point that for some women it is necessary that they cut all ties from their mothers because they remain too abusive, toxic and controlling, or continue to deny past abuse and continue to protect men’s abuse (for instance in the case of incest rape by the father or members of the family). I do believe that all daughters want to have good and healthy relationships with their mothers though, if they could.

    Although Sonia did say that she would and could reunite with her daughter in a different world, but not now. However her daughter only exists in this world.

  43. 45 cherryblossomlife June 18, 2013 at 3:57 am

    yes exactly FCM. Water gathering. Look at all the beautiful flowers. Watch out for that spider. Oh, there’s a stone with flecks of blue in it, I’ll take it back to my daughter…
    I’m not romanticizing oppression . I’m saying that if men didn’t exist, somebody would still have to get the water. I’d be the first to volunteer, that’s all I’m saying.
    You lot can all sit around in a stuffy room and discuss…. what? 🙂 🙂
    What would be more important than water gathering outside of patriarchy? Even if you made a tap, I’d still go down the hard way so that I could work on my botany.

  44. 46 cherryblossomlife June 18, 2013 at 4:00 am

    Imagine! No fear of rape at the waterside! I could just work on my botany. Ah bliss.

  45. 47 witchwind June 18, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I believe you 100% CBL. My point earlier was more about how men pervert doing and work in general to destroy women.

    The way you describe it, it sounds wonderful. In winter, if we have to break the ice, it would be very cold. I’d prefer taps in cold days and water gathering in warmer days!

  46. 49 cherryblossomlife June 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm


  1. 1 Women Didn’t Do It. That’s the Point. | femonade Trackback on July 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm
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