Interview with a blogger from Radfem-ological Images

I had the chance to interview one of the bloggers from Radfem-ological Images shortly after the project ended. Radfem-ological Images presents itself as “a public, radical feminist group blog dedicated to dissecting and discussing media images through a radical feminist lens.” They demonstrated how commercial ads support men’s power over women, and provided a radfem alternative to the boring “this is inequality” liberal critiques of media. They also created ‘the gears’, a very useful breakdown of the different patriarchal workings they identified in media images. I found it interesting that the project ended on a note that questioned the very practice of exposing women to harmful media, even for the sake of criticising it and demonstrating its harms to women. It was also very honest and rigorous to reflect openly about the effects of the work undertaken and what it meant to women. I thought it deserved a public blog discussion and wanted to expand on this more here.

Witchwind: Thank you for participating in this interview! So radfem-ological images has been suspended and the reasons for this were outlined in the article ‘Media Exposure as Harmful Cultural Practice.

Radfem-ological images: Yes that’s true. Actually I haven’t totally written off the idea of using it to post images under the “women’s culture/positive images” category but so far I haven’t.

WW: How did the change of objective come about, and what made you realise that it’s harmful to watch patriarchal propaganda (media) even when the intent is to criticise it?

RI: Well it’s been in the back of my mind the whole time actually. When we were setting up this blog, I was working behind the scenes with several people about the format, “about” pages (etc.) and one woman told me that she did anti-pornography work but refused to show the audience actual pictures of porn. Her group showed tracings of the porn I think, so that the audience could know basically what was going on but wouldn’t actually have to see the penetration and the flesh. So that was in my mind the whole time, and it’s the reason we did the header image the way we did, where there were really no explicitly porny or hateful imagery there.

WW: That’s interesting. What was the rationale for not showing any pornified images? It’s usually argued that to criticise an image, you have to show it, so women know.

RI: Well my understanding was that women who did this work a lot understood that it was triggering for the women in the audience, and that men in the audience (if there were any) got off on the imagery so there was no good reason to include it. This wasn’t my idea, I was building off the acquired knowledge of women who have been doing this work for a long time, and who had made the decision in their own work not to show porn even though previously it was done that way, and other anti-porn groups still do it that way with the full images.

The images blog wasn’t porn-critical, so I wasn’t including porn one way or the other, but the idea that the imagery conveyed it’s message no matter what was always there. And obviously I did include the full images at the blog and did over 100 posts there. But then after a point it seemed that it was getting very repetitive and I started wondering what the point was to keep doing the same thing over and over when there were risks involved. The Fiji study also helped me understand what the risks are for girls and women from just the everyday stuff we see on TV, which was the majority of the content on the images blog – everyday advertising images that are relatively benign compared to other things.

WW: How did it affect you or the team to look for those ads, watch them and then break them down for critical purpose? Did it change your way of reacting to those images, for instance by increasing your tolerance to male propaganda?

RI: Well, I didn’t go seeking them out. I watch television and started seeing patterns in the messages, that is, that the same themes were appearing again and again and I just made a mental note of the patterns and themes. Breaking them all down of course is tiring, but I was doing it anyway so I figured I could use it as a teaching or illustrative tool that others could use. The ones that struck me as particularly egregious or obvious illustrations of these themes or radfem points made it onto the blog. The patterns and themes were compiled into the “gears” page in the beginning of the project.

I think the change for me has been to realize that the woman-hating intent and effect was there and that the propaganda effect was working on me all the time, decades by now of course, and it didn’t stop just because I was looking at them with a critical eye. And I didn’t want to expose women to even more images than they had to look at in a normal day after a certain point.

After the teachable moment had passed in other words, and after (I hoped) they had the tools to deconstruct these images themselves, I thought they were seeing enough on an average day and didn’t need any more images from me, regardless of the reason.

WW: How then would you expose the harms of visual male media without showing the images themselves? What alternatives would you suggest to break it down?

RI: Well that’s a good question isn’t it? I think that it is useful to use the images, and perhaps especially with media images that women are already seeing: they were a quick illustrative tool that they could relate to, so if they saw the same commercial again they would know what it was “really” about, you know? But I think the issue is really timing, where the usefulness of doing it decreases over time. The teachable moment passes, and we need to do something with that information rather than just doing the same “critical” work over and over. Its called “diminishing returns” where over time, the effort you are putting into it becomes more and more in comparison to the benefit that’s coming out of it. So it eventually fails a cost-benefit analysis. It becomes not worth it, in other words. I think that’s an issue of time and experience, and an issue of evaluating our situation and our effectiveness rather than getting into a rut or becoming particularly enamoured with the work itself for no good reason.

WW: So would you say that focusing on and reacting to what men do (for instance continual hate-propaganda against women through images) on the long run is ineffective as a feminist strategy?

RI: As far as it being an effective or ineffective long term strategy, I think that’s complicated. I think it’s useful for women to have this knowledge, about what men are doing to us and what it means, and specifically the patriarchal intent and effect of various policies and practices like the patriarchal media. But there’s an issue with diminishing returns, so that actually doing it long term is pointless, or perhaps the same people doing it with the same audience becomes pointless over time. I have been thinking for a while about there being a kind of 2-year program for women where we all could to this kind of work for 2 years and then leave it behind, like spend a year learning about it and then a year teaching others, then getting out. So that we don’t get caught up in the diminishing returns aspect of it, and so that individual women don’t become burned out. I don’t know how we would implement that, it’s just a thought I’ve been mulling over. And then after the 2 years, do more woman’s culture kind of stuff.

WW: That’s interesting. What this says to me is that once you realise how violence works, and that it is violence, the next step is to protect yourself from it. I have experienced similar feelings of burn-out, where after the point of understanding how male violence worked, coming back to it was tiring, violent and numbing. But for a long time I felt guilty for not coming back to it.

RI: Yes I know what you mean about the guilt! Like we shouldn’t pull the ladder up behind ourselves, or make others pull themselves up by their bootstraps and that kind of thing. I would also add that I think the capitalistic model tries very hard to take over, where we find something we are good at and want to do that forever, like a trade, and where some of us actually manage to make a living off of “feminism” but I think that precludes us from actually being honest about how effective we are being, or whether we are working towards our own obsolescence, which is really the point. I would also add that I think there’s a difference between the repetitive radfem 101 stuff, that has a limited usefulness over time, and the more “living” work that some women are able to do, where original thought is possible and real leaps are made. The usefulness of that kind of work might never diminish.

WW: So would have maintaining the blog prevented your evolution towards something more positive?

RI: Well I don’t know about my own evolution yet, mostly I have been walking down this road for a while as far as questioning our effectiveness generally and wondering why there is so much repetitiveness and whether women think things are getting better or even staying the same for all our efforts, and if they think that, on what evidence are they basing their opinions that what we are doing is working? I think I identified one area in my own work that fell into that trap perfectly, and I realized I couldn’t do it any more, and that it had likely become harmful and that there was actually evidence beyond my own thoughts and feelings that this was true. Again, I am referencing the Fiji study. But I also had thoughts and feelings, you know, that it was becoming less and less effective over time. I think in the beginning it was a wonderful project and that as an archives perhaps it will be useful, but I also think the women who have already gone through the archives or who viewed it in real time as the work was being done, don’t need to review any of the posts there more than once, or perhaps they can use the posts as reference material and links. Really the most important part of that project is the “gears” page in my opinion, where the themes (which are mechanisms of patriarchy as a working system) are exposed and defined. As far as my own evolution towards something more positive, I haven’t really moved on yet, this is a new development and I don’t know where it will lead me.

WW: I think that’s an important lead though, to listen to our feelings and trust them. And what you say about repetitiveness, it makes me think that only patriarchal modes are repetitive, as opposed to non-patriarchal evolution.

RI: Yes. I think if we get bored or start feeling burned out it’s a signal that we are mucking around in death you know. Patriarchy is death. And there is more than one way to go about this work, change is good you know. Creativity and change have to be feminist principles don’t they? Which makes it impossible to be a feminist for profit, if that is based on the usual model of keeping yourself relevant for as long as possible. I want feminism to become irrelevant, or not mindful at all, like breathing. I have other things I would much rather be doing.

WW: I completely agree about creativity and change, and I would also add joy.

RI: The living work is joyful for me, like the conversations that happen sometimes. They are really magical. Making new projects and working on them for a while and then moving on is good too – as I literally just realized very recently.

WW: Yes projects teach you something and once you’ve learned, you want to move on! It’s difficult to accept this on an everyday basis though. It can be difficult to let go of something if it has organised our life for such a long time, we’re afraid to leave it.

RI: Yes and that is a source of guilt for some reason isn’t it? As you mentioned it would probably be a good idea to examine that one wouldn’t it? It’s like you are shitting on other women if you incorporate what you’ve learned into your own life or even into your own mind. This is all supposed to be abstract apparently, or we are killing women. WE are killing women! We hear that from every side don’t we.

WW: I suppose the conventional modes of activism are very male-centred and it’s taboo to quit them.

RI: That’s a good point about traditional activism (activism, unexamined) is very male centered and reflective of male values. Sonia Johnson said something about that, I don’t remember which book it was, but it’s another tactic of the patriarchy to pit woman against woman, and that’s part of it, it’s making us feel that we are letting women down if we aren’t doing in-your-face activism or reformist stuff to reduce women’s suffering in real time. But who does it serve to fix women up and send them off for more abuse? Who does it serve if women never incorporate what we have learned into our own lives? It’s not women who are killing other women. I don’t have all the answers to this dilemma, I am in the midst of experiencing the conflict myself. And I should also add that it’s entirely possible that all the work that has been done in the last 100 years, and even in the last 10 years was completely worth it. I’m not saying anyone has done anything wrong.

WW: The guilt is also related to the belief that we should project our energy outward, instead on focusing on creating our own reality. That if we stop focusing on men it is an avowal of failure, and that we might as well quit completely.

RI: Quit what, would be my question. Like the women who think that if male violence were innate, we may as well “quit”. You can’t be attached to an outcome, you have to be dedicated to the truth and knowing the truth. I think there are some things we probably should quit. Not quit activating towards women’s liberation from male dominance, just quitting what’s obviously not working and that which is based on wishful thinking or assumptions that are proving to have been wrong. Sonia Johnson suggested that we thank the women who came before for the work they did, and for proving for the world to see that society cannot be reformed, and that legal and other reforms are simply not possible, men won’t allow them to happen.


I wanted to add that in the beginning the images blog was supposed to be a group project, but in the end it turned out that the only collaboration that happened was in the very beginning, with doing the “about” pages and the gears page. The others who had initially come on board to write for the blog never wrote anything, and now I am wondering why that was. There were initially four of us, including myself, and two of us stated in the beginning that they didn’t watch much TV or patriarchal media at all, due to time constraints and lack of interest. Now I am wondering if they somehow knew that the project would be of limited usefulness, or that it would be harmful to themselves or others. It’s been difficult to get women to write much of anything as a matter of fact, and this has been true for years in the blogging community. And now that I know what I know about the diminishing returns of certain kinds of work, I think I can imagine why that is. I think women know what’s likely to work, or perhaps what’s likely not to work. Sonia Johnson mentioned this when she and her group were having a hard time getting huge numbers of women on board with the ERA stuff and legal reformism generally. She wondered if there was a problem with the actions themselves, and she came to understand that there was. The problem was that they were doing liberal reformism and liberal reformism won’t work. It feels wrong and it is wrong. You know?

WW: That’s true about things that feel wrong. I pay very much attention to this in the things I do now. For instance when writing feels like a chore, it’s because I want a snapshot of past thoughts and control what I say – it is not the case when I write as I think. But after having an insight, going back to it feels time-consuming and it never has the same quality as when I discover these ideas through instant discussion with other radfems. But I think there are ways of writing that don’t feel like that. The control-mode is the one I learned at university, the essay-style writing, which is boring and deadening, and it takes a very long time to decolonise from this.

RI: Yes I agree. There are kinds of writing that are fun and invigorating. Perhaps this is what we should be looking for – if it’s not fun and invigorating, it’s not going to work. Or that there’s something patriarchal about it, and therefore self-defeating. And I think that if a woman is involved in a project she doesn’t feel invigorated over, she might as well leave because what’s the point?

WW: Yes! if it bores me to the core, I don’t see how it can begin invigorating other women.

RI: Women assume there is a point to doing this work, and the point is that it’s likely to work no matter how it feels. But I think there is plenty of evidence by now that that’s not necessarily true. I don’t think much has “worked” at all and that the proof of this is that things are getting worse. But we don’t have to continue down that road.

WW: I agree. The fact that it’s not likely to work if it feels destructive is something that took time for me to sink in, I didn’t want to admit it at first, but it’s true, I can see the effects of it my own work.

RI: I did start feeling bombarded by the hateful imagery once I understood it’s purpose and effect. It feels very raw to me now, and the hatred is so obvious it makes me very angry that it’s passed off so easily as something benign, or just background noise. Almost every media image out there is just a big, tangible “fuck you” to women. And it sickens me now. It really does.

WW: I think it’s healthy if it sickens you, it means you can then stop doing it. It’s when you get numbed by these images that the messages take even more power over you. As said in the article, the best we can do is switch off the tv.

RI: Yes. And understanding the intent and effect helped me see how repetitive the “fuck you’s” really were. Yes, turn it off and do something else, or at the very least ponder how god awful men’s reality really is for women, if we use politicized torture to “relax” at the end of the day, and why it seems as if we do this “voluntarily” is a good question too. I think things are worse than even we know most of the time. I mean imagine this playing out among any other oppressed group. Getting home after a long day of XYZ and then bringing XYZ into your own home at night to unwind… Maybe for us, just being in out of the male gaze is better, that being humiliated and degraded in private is an improvement. Or, that we simply don’t have enough time to engage in truly positive or even value-neutral recreation, like crafts or something. So a half an hour in front of the TV, where we are humiliated and degraded in private is the best we can do to recharge our batteries and go out for more the next day. It’s overwhelming to think about how awful things must really be, if this is our reality, but I think it is.

WW: We often don’t have any alternative – family members or people we live with will just switch on the TV whether we like it or not, and the TV always takes precedence over you not wanting to watch it. TVs are always in the centre of living rooms.

RI: Yes there’s that too. We have no privacy and no time or space. The lack of alternatives make it seem voluntary when it’s not in any legitimate sense of having meaningful options. And the part about being humiliated and degraded in private being an improvement over what we experience every day when we are “out” I think is an important part of it too. These are interesting topics that we could explore (or others too) instead of wasting our time doing repetitive media criticism. Now that we know how they work, after the benefit to doing the work has been achieved, you know?

WW: The violent images on TV may also be addictive. Because violence followed by dissociation has the same effects as drugs, it does give the impression of relaxing, or of a release: these effects are intended. It’s a PTSD process: it triggers overwhelming emotions such as fear, tension, stress, or suspense, so our brain produces drugs in the neuronal system to dissociate, which causes a high.

RI: Again that is more interesting and useful than dissecting another Geico commercial.

WW: In general a shot lasts no longer than 3 seconds. The speed of the shots and moving images is a deliberate media-strategy, so our eyes are captivated, glued to the screen. The more movement and action there is, the more difficult it is to take your eyes off. This is just one of plenty visual manipulation techniques.

RI: I didn’t know that.

Me: Because if shots were longer it would leave us time to think about what we’re watching and process it. The constant flow of image is overwhelming.

RI: That’s interesting. So there’s a deliberate science to it which we can articulate and learn about.

WW: I learned that at school, I assume it must be 101 for media companies.

Radfem-ological images: Yes probably! And it’s media critical work (or could be used critically) where you don’t necessarily have to expose your audience to the images themselves.

64 Responses to “Interview with a blogger from Radfem-ological Images”

  1. 1 river June 30, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    “Well my understanding was that women who did this work a lot understood that it was triggering for the women in the audience, and that men in the audience (if there were any) got off on the imagery so there was no good reason to include it. This wasnt my idea, I was building off the acquired knowledge of women who have been doing this work for a long time, and who had made the decision in their own work not to show porn even though previously it was done that way, and other anti-porn groups still do it that way with the full images.”

    I agree with the latter reason but not the former. Women in the audience I wouldn’t say necessarily are triggered, but find it surprisingly violent and hateful. For many it’s their first exposure to what porn really is, because they have believed the men in their lives that it’s just sex, and their resistance is prudery. So seeing it full out as Gail Dines presents it for example, is a necessary shock. I think many women, just like men, are ‘triggered’ to be aroused, because we are groomed to that. I doubt there are women alive but Lesbians (most not all) who are not aroused by porn and the like images.

    I think the idea of “triggering” is over-used in our community because triggering doesn’t really work that way, that one gets triggered by pix of porn. One gets disgusted, or turned on, but triggering is when I hear a certain piece of music, or a smell, or a body shape or even a dog bark and it comes out of nowhere, I can’t breath, I have to spend days in paranoia.

    That men in the audience get off on it yes of course they do, even if they pretend otherwise, so do men writing about it. I recall writing this to Jensen when his Getting Off came out telling him why I wouldn’t buy the book or send it to a male in my family circle. I was pleasing with him to put something out that didn’t turn men on. I told him, because the descriptions of porn were porn, were turning men on. I got a nothing answer from him. I don’t know if it might have been different in person, because at the time he was being blackmailed by a pro-porn/pro sex work prostituted woman. Some early online rad fems will know who I mean.

    I think many anti-porn writers are writing porn themselves. I have experienced great censure from rad fems for even mentioning this. Not backing down. And I also think liberal fems are as groomed to get off on the porn and pornified imagery as men are.

    Sorry if this is rambling and disjointed. I’m not a writer.

  2. 2 FCM July 1, 2013 at 12:32 am

    Reblogged this on Radfem-ological Images and commented:
    witchwind interviews radfem-ological images.

  3. 3 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I agree with you that the word “triggering” might be overused, and as far as I know the context in which it is overused is when the intent is to shut down radical feminist discussion of men’s violence (ie “you can’t say this because it triggered me”). Or at best, it is used as a poor argument against something that is actually anti-woman – but the fact that it’s triggering isn’t really the point, because as you said, any scent, noise or smell may trigger traumatic memory, even if these are “value neutral” – for instance birds, spiders might be triggering. The main point is that it’s woman-hating, and you have to explain why it is, or why it’s pornographic, etc.

  4. 4 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    However I also agree with the point made about not showing porn images. In fact whichever the form of pornography, whether written or visual, I think it’s very important not to show the porn in its original form, the one made by the pornographer, and instead to describe the acts perpetrated in our own words, without the eroticising, sexual, humiliating and anti-woman language or imagery.

    The intended effects of porn are contained in the material: which is to eroticise torture of women. so you can’t de-eroticise the material and demonstrate how violent it is by showing it as it is. Or you can’t demonstrate the violence contained in it by showing the material that masks this violence and represents the violence from the point of view of the perpetrator who enjoys what he’s doing.

    The whole point of porn is to write about, represent or film rape/ torture of women in a way that makes the violence invisible, desirable and sexual. This is done by focusing on the erection / sexual arousal of the man who rapes rather than on the pain and suffering that the woman experiences. It identifies and focuses on his own vision of the victim as an empty sum of body parts to be penetrated and abused. The violence is also de-realised by depicting the woman as a willing victim, or by forcing the woman to imitate grotesque signs of pleasure and to dehumanise her with “feminine” artefacts (= pornify her body with make-up, thongs, laces, etc.) Patriarchal media and men individually groom us to view this as “sex” and to experience genital arousal from it too. And to find submission (femininity) “sexy” and “beautiful” rather than dehumanising.

    So when we show eroticised / sexualised torture of women, this means that women might experience genital arousal while watching these images or listening to the material, even as they find the acts disgusting or horrifying. It’s one form of mechanical reaction to sexual violence that is often a result of direct or indirect grooming (for instance men train women to rub their clitoris during the rape / PIV) and it’s basically a way for the body to dissociate from the pain and terror of the violence, and for men it’s a way to make women believe we enjoy rape / PIV / torture. So when women experience this in a context where the point is to criticise porn from a feminist point of view and denounce the violence in it, it is particularly humiliating and shame inducing for women, and can confuse many into believing that after all they like being tortured or enjoy watching women being tortured, when it obviously isn’t the case.

    Not to mention the effects of freeze fright, blank minds or paralysis that pornographic content has on us, because it is essentially a paradox (we can enjoy violence) and showing such a contradictory message (the violence is there but it isn’t there because we enjoy it, so we don’t exist as subjects) within a context of critique (this is bad – so more contradiction to the latter) IS also an act of psychological violence in itself. It’s incoherent from a feminist perspective IMO.

  5. 5 FCM July 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    just as an FYI women do report being “triggered” or negatively affected by the use of actual porn in anti-porn work. this was in response to gail dines work specifically — a woman had a very strong response to a slideshow dines gave and that combined with other woman-hating things passing as radical feminism ruined a radfem conference for her. she eventually left online radical feminism (and IRL too?) completely.

    also, dworkin, as a writer deconstructing and criticizing porn in her written work, described the porn using words. i understand that the original intent with using the real images was to educate women about what was really happening and how woman-hating it really was. but because of the work that was already done, we KNOW this now. do we need to keep seeing/showing the same images forever? why/why not?

  6. 6 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Imagine reading to an audience 1 hour and a half of “120 days of Sodome” from the Marquis de Sade to show that Sade is a criminal. I don’t think any feminist would do that. She’d describe the crimes they did and say it in those terms, naming the violence in our own words, appropriately, give reality to the acts and name them from the point of view of the victim. They’d say, “he raped that many times and committed this and this act of torture”. Otherwise it’s like kicking someone to explain and criticise the practice of kicking. Same with images. It’s best to describe the images verbally, in a third-person way and naming things correctly with our language (the positions and what they mean: man always on top, woman on bottom), the acts of penetration torture, what men do to women). And it is immediately disgusting and horrifying but without seeing the pornsets, the faked pleasure, women’s pornified bodies and men’s erect dicks in every foreground, which all serve to de-realise the violence and eroticise it.

    This means we can experience the horror, disgust and outrage by discovering these atrocities, without feeling genital arousal or dissociation, or by minimising this possibility. It means we can fully identify and empathise with the women victims and we cease to identify with men’s perspective of the violence committed against us. As we would if we saw images of the holocaust for instance. It is horrifying but not in one instance would we see it as erotic or sexual. That is because men are defined as human and therefore we immediately or more quickly identify to the pain and horror they suffered.

    To me this is a more woman-centred and woman-respectful way of demonstrating the harms of pornography or male visual propaganda.

    Also, Stop porn culture does not come from a radical feminist perspective but a purely anti-porn, anti-capitalist perspective. This does explain in part, I think, the male-centredness of it.

  7. 7 FCM July 1, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    i would also ask, what effect is it having on gail dines herself to look at porn every day of her life (or however often she has to look at it as a part of her job?) what if watching porn and sexualized torture/violence against women through the male perspective — which is what porn is — is affecting her in a way that prevents her from making radical changes in her own life, for example, leaving her husband or leaving male-centered activism? this is a risk we take in staying in mensworld at all, and porn *is* mensworld. it is mensworld stripped of all pretense, i would say. and if it is affecting her in some negative way (and it likely is) i would then ask “and for what?” is the work itself extremely helpful to women, or likely to liberate women from male dominance? i dont know for sure if it is or isnt, but if people think it is, on what are they basing their opinion? one woman left radical feminism over it — it didnt “help” her at all. and things are actually getting worse in general, not better! so gail dines is sacrificing herself, and in the process other women are being harmed *and* nothing is changing for the better. is the likely very small amount of money dines is getting for her paid activism worth it to her or to us? these are serious questions.

    also by way of disclosure, i am the blogger that was interviewed above. 🙂 everyone already knows that, and its never been a secret, but just to make it clear. i wont dominate this discussion since my views were already made clear in the interview. i hope people want to discuss this as i (obviously) find it very interesting, and unexpected. i thought radfem-ological images was a great project and i didnt foresee this or any ending for it. like “sociological images” i figured it would just go on forever.

  8. 8 FCM July 1, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Otherwise it’s like kicking someone to explain and criticise the practice of kicking.

    this is very well said, thanks.

  9. 9 Sargasso Sea July 1, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    What a lot of food for thought here – where to begin?! 🙂

    Thinking about the “term of service” concept I keep coming back to the thought that it should be a natural progression for women to first learn, then teach, then move on to a theoretical/philosophical plane, or in-action. But that is not what is happening in general – women are stuck in the first two modes with *teaching* (educating men) to include activism/reformisim.

    Women are given zero credit for thinking and often we criticized for “doing nothing” or being lazy when we are thinking alone or together – it’s the ULTIMATE taboo. But of course there is no action without thought. And it’s very telling that there are so few spaces where free-flowing conversation is happening.

  10. 10 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    That is a good question. I don’t see how it won’t affect her negatively. It’s inevitable. Looking at it once in order to understand is one thing, but going back to it again and again is harmful as you say. And another thing is the fact that doing these presentations has given her somewhat publicity and public status. So it encourages her to continue and discourages her to pay attention to what it does to her and other women and act accordingly. It encourages the kind of (probably in good faith) rationalisations that the publicity serves the cause, or that the sacrifice is worth it or something because the message is “going trough”, no matter how and in which context it’s been sent. Or this weighs heavier on the balance than women feeling triggered by the material and leaving radical feminism over it.

    This leads us back to means / ends discussion, and thinking about the effects of our work on women, on ourselves and therefore on our capacity to liberate ourselves from men. For instance i’ve noticed that focusing only on men’s violence and nothing else, or having no other activity than going back to their violence all the time doesn’t leave time, space and energy to focus on positive liberation work and creating positive relations, the ones that are necessary to go forward and make us stronger and freer. As I first became feminist I had this need to uncover and uncover and uncover atrocity after atrocity to understand what men did, and I felt the need to shout it over rooftops. It was what propelled me into radical feminism. But after a while it kept dragging me under and downwards and I felt I wasn’t moving forward anymore, or not in the same way. It just made me feel numb and I felt guilty for not having the same constant rage and anger as I had at first. But then I realised that it was a normal process and that we couldn’t live without biophilia – centering our lives on the love of life and creating biophilic alternatives to maledom.

  11. 11 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I like the way you describe the phases S4.

    When women are stuck in the first two planes, I think it means on a more general level that they are stuck with men, in one way or another: the husband, son, husband-state (as Sonia Johnson says) or husband-institutions (which may be any form of organisation that include men / are male-controlled or supervised. They are stuck in male paradigms and male ways and perspectives on the reality of their world, and in male parameters of doing.

    Because in fact the third mode doesn’t exclude sharing of knowledge, but it will be different from the lecturing model. There is more focus on free-flowing conversations as you say. This is different from telling women what to do or think. It also doesn’t exclude action, but the actions will be approached differently and thought differently and done differently. I like the word “in-action” because describes well the shift between focusing on men’s world to focusing on our own world and the things we can do and be for ourselves. Though I’m convinced that this “in-action” has far better outward effects than the purely “out-action” (or dissociative active, because it dissociates the self from the doing, the means from ends, etc.).

  12. 12 Sargasso Sea July 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Yes, that’s a good distinction/juxtaposition between in-acting and out-acting.

    What I’ve discovered over just the past few months of participating in discussion only (as opposed to writing posts of my own) is that it is right and good for ME to do so. That is my acting-in, my path to be-ing in a state of free mind – and by that to be able to share my often *nebulous* impressions and find them picked-up-on and fleshed-out before my very eyes 🙂

    This to me is what “movement” is made of.

  13. 13 river July 1, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    just as an FYI women do report being triggered or negatively affected by the use of actual porn in anti-porn work. this was in response to gail dines work specifically a woman had a very strong response to a slideshow dines gave and that combined with other woman-hating things passing as radical feminism ruined a radfem conference for her. she eventually left online radical feminism (and IRL too?) completely.”


    I really don’t want to go into this further, but to say, I (and some others who have been part of online rf for some years) question this telling of what happened at that event. Also, the blogger has not left the internet.

    Constantly viewing, reading, talking about pornstitution experience does have a negative effect on women, which is why I do not support exited women repeatedly writing about their experiences and caution women who do praise them for what is essentially living in that torture to consider carefully what they are really doing.


  14. 14 FCM July 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    wait, what? the post and comments are right there for everyone to see for themselves. im not “telling” anyone anything that they didnt already know.

    or, are you saying that joy was lying?

  15. 15 river July 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Also, Stop porn culture does not come from a radical feminist perspective but a purely anti-porn, anti-capitalist perspective. This does explain in part, I think, the male-centredness of it.


    I don’t agree SPC is coming from a purely anti-porn, anti-capitalist perspective. I think what you do when you want a larger audience for your message but with the same end goal as strictly rad fem, if you’re savvy, is to present the aspect of truth of the harm of pornography that the larger culture will buy. Whether of not Dines calls herself radfem (or Berg) I do see radfem perspective in their work.


  16. 16 karmarad July 1, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    This is such a rich interview. The concept of the Images blog was a strong clear one from the start. I agree that after a certain period of time there was nothing new to discover. The images fall into the categories noted over and over. The material is infinite but presenting it can be done thoroughly in a short time frame. So the blog to me was a project to make a point, which it did very thoroughly. I wish a big coffee table book could come from this, filled with the eye-catching products of excellent artists and photographers, with the words pointing out the subtext of the art. It could be beautiful and terrible and tragic. I suppose the corps involved wouldn’t allow their images to be reprinted in that context though.

    I have the same issue as so many here with triggering and porn. I don’t know if triggering is the word. Viewing the material is allowing oneself to be assaulted with images and words. There’s only so much harm we can take and it has to be measured out in small doses. One way to deal with it might be to keep the images in a separate link so women could choose not to be assualted when they read about pornography. For a long time, because of this problem, I refused to read about it at all, even a critique without express images hurt me. It’s a difficult problem and I well understand about burnout. I admire Gail Dines so much for subjecting herself to this harm in order to “expose” this stuff to the light.

  17. 17 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    River, I would like you to explain how Dines’ perspective is radfem because I don’t think it has been answered. (I’m not talking about Berg here, just Dines). You said SPC aim for larger audiences and therefore select the information so that the “larger culture” will buy. But what do we mean when we say “larger audience / larger culture”? It necessarily means men, and not only individual men but also male institutions, male media, etc. And Dines herself is known to repeatedly saying that she wants to include men in the process (both as audience and organisers). Since when is it a desirable radical feminist goal and strategy to seek men’s approval to what we say and do? Let alone tone down our message or cut down on the information we say so men will buy it? This is not radical feminism, because it’s actively refusing to say the whole truth or keeping it away from women so men find it palatable. It is also centred on changing men, as opposed to freeing ourselves from men. It’s an understandable survival strategy and we all do it or all have done it, and I don’t want to seem like I’m punishing women for doing it, but this is not radical feminism.

    I can enumerate many other ways in which SPC is not radical feminist. Women, for one, are not at the centre of their intended audience, even though I’m sure it is always a majority of women who attend the conferences. It minimises or omits a lot the significance of pornography and its role in patriarchy. It is not framed as hatred propaganda in a global male war against women. It is not framed as torture, that even far exceed the definitions of torture in all human rights conventions. It is not framed as genocide, which would also be a logical conclusion to make since it ticks all the boxes for conventional definitions of genocide (rapes and torture planned, executed at a mass scale, including the use of propaganda). I don’t even think it defines the acts within porn (which is a form of filmed prostitution) as rape, although it would be very easy to demonstrate because here the coercion is very obvious (the women are forced to do it through contract and payment), as opposed to having to explain that all PIV is rape, which takes more time in explaining all the different levels of coercion on women. The fact that she includes a discussion on how porn affects men, which is “small penis complex”, without explaining how this perspective only demonstrates that men don’t care about what is done to the women, all they’re anxious about is of not being able to do what they just saw. And there are other things too, but I’ll stop here.

  18. 18 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Well porn can be triggering to the extent that if you see things that were done to you and the trauma of it is still strong, it will very likely trigger the traumatic memory. It might not necessarily be triggering to all women. Though porn is much more likely to trigger women than doors slamming, a bird, a spider, a scent or word. And it is definitely always assaulting, thank you for making that distinction.

    I think giving the women the opportunity to look at the selected images by themselves if they want to is a very good alternative. G Dines could just as well keep a link where anyone can access the slideshow easily (i know you can get it on her site but you have to download it first and open it with MS powerpoint). Although if she did I sense that she would lose her appeal to the male world.

    Why would we admire someone who continues to subject herself to harm though? I would feel sorry for her, not admirative. It otherwise means we set her as an example or a model, and this is what men want, and precisely why they give publicity to women such as Dines rather than radical feminists. (Again I have nothing personal against G Dines, I could be talking about her or anyone else, it’s more to talk about the workings of it).

  19. 19 FCM July 1, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    the part about gail dines’s husband organizing/attending these functions is bad enough, but joy said they actually had to sing “happy birthday” to him? can you imagine!? women SINGING to their oppressor at a radfem conference. women singing to him and watching porn with him — he mustve felt like the goddamn mayor of turdtown.

  20. 20 FCM July 1, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    i mean really. is it possible that watching all this porn has made gail dines a little nuts? what a bizarre (yet specific) lapse in judgement.

    and if watching a lot of porn has made her nuts, im not judging her for that. it happens. which is exactly what we are talking about here.

  21. 21 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I would’ve probably walked out or booed at that. And I would definitely had been very, very angry. Yes that is really AWFUL and so insulting to all the women, and to herself too of course. I was angry enough when I heard her talking about her son’s penis for a certain length of time, not to mention other things on intersectionality (we should care about black men apparently). Defending heterosexuality as good model for women, etc.
    And of course it’s a very political statement but we’re not supposed to engage with this from a political point of view.

  22. 22 river July 1, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I can’t say it better than I already have. I see Dines and others work as bringing people into thought and discussion of what these images do. Building on that, saying “yes but” and respectful disagreement? Fine. But tell me: who is reading radfemological images? Dines and Berg, in all their not exactly rad fem work (sic) are out there and beyond the rad fem internetz.

    I also do not KNOW that she is strategizing as I suggested. I’m saying, that would be a possibility. I think we have to go through doors that open, and from there work toward our goal.

    I would love to see her response to this. You interviewed rfological images, why not one or both of these women?

    And by the way thanks for doing that interview. I think it’s a great tool, and you did it very well.

    There are some other things I might respond to later. It’s July 1st here.


  23. 23 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Anyway, it’s not a crime nor a horribly life-destructive act to ask women in the audience to sing for her husband’s birthday so I don’t want to overdo the impression that she did something irredeemable and terrible, terrible, that’s not true. But it is a political statement of where you stand with regards to women, men and feminism (which is anti-feminist) and as Gail Dines seems to be set as a positive model for anti-porn activism even within the radical feminist sphere, such actions and their consequences deserve to be questioned.

  24. 24 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I would see it the other way round FCM, that in order to do all this she would have had low male/danger protection-levels in the first place.

  25. 25 Sargasso Sea July 1, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    WWind reminded us earlier that women are groomed/programmed to be *aroused* by porn, so when women who are attending a presentation on the harms of porn and are being shown images of porn are very, very likely to experience a huge inner conflict between what they suspect to be true (the harms of porn – otherwise why would they be attending in the first place) and what their physical responses are.

    Exposing women to this kind of conflict (amongst other *triggers*) is in no way radical – it simply buttresses women’s questioning of themselves which serves to SILENCE them.

    Sing happy birthday to a man who has just taken money out of your pocket to view pornography? It’s cruel (but not unusual) to be expected to do so.

  26. 26 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Why do you ask who is reading radfem images? And why is there this implication that those who write on the internet aren’t “out there”, as opposed to the “real activists” such as Dines and Berg? (And Berg I think used to hold an internet forum for feminists).
    This has already been said but it implies that
    1) internet writing isn’t a form of activism in its own right that can impact on our reality and on our movement it doesn’t count because it doesn’t engage with men’s system and men (despite the fact that most of us have read the radical feminist classics and we generally say that it has contributed a lot in our lives and feminism).

    2) that those who write do not have other radical feminist activities other than writing, or that we believe that writing is the only action we can ever have. Though if we were to prove what kinds of things we do outside of writing, we’d have to disclose personal information that would compromise our anonymity. This wouldn’t serve us at all.

    Also those who write on the internet happen to not have a better place to write and publish from, as opposed to those who had or have access to other platforms. And blogging is a good way to promote such discussions which aren’t possible when you read a book.

  27. 27 FCM July 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    not irredeemable, of course not. but causing painful cognitive dissonance in other women, and asking, encouraging and rewarding women for simpering to our oppressors (at a radfem conference!) is not just a political statement, although it is that too, and that would cause cognitive dissonance too. i dont know if i have words for what this is right now, or know for sure *what* this is but i know its not good. and *yes* it is indicative of something else (although not that gail dines is a bad person, im sure shes not).

  28. 28 FCM July 1, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    hundreds of people read radfem images BTW, and those are the ones we know about. we had almost 100 followers on the blog and additional (unique) followers on facebook and twitter. plus reblogs and tumblr-ed passages which are not counted (i dont think?) as of today it has 62,000 pageviews which some blogs never see in a lifetime. its not millions, but what radfem material reaches millions? and how many women went to any of the radfem conferences? more than hundreds? doubtful.

    anyway, yes the constant attacks on radfem writing are so old by now. yawn.

  29. 29 FCM July 1, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    cruel! thats it isnt it?

  30. 30 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Yes, it certainly causes painful cognitive dissonance. Going to a place that sells itself as radfem and then being trapped into having to sing happy birthday to your oppressor. It certainly reveals the degree of blindness or denial of the fact that all men are our oppressors, and because she’s in denial of this (and especially in denial of how the centre of women’s oppression lies in PIV, control of women’s reproductive capacities by men + the captivity to men + men’s violence that surrounds it) she will not be in a state where she can protect us from male presence and male invasion. And I think about the control that husband must have over her, and that this is indicative of him stopping her thoughts and her integrity as a feminist, cause that is pretty humiliating for her too. Honestly if that guy thought it was ok to have his birthday sung by hundreds of feminists in a context of an anti-porn conference, he’s seriously anti-feminist, not even the pretendy feminist kind.

  31. 31 Sargasso Sea July 1, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    “I (and some others who have been part of online rf for some years)”

    Yes, river, there are indeed “some others” who have been around for years. And I (at least) remember you from quite a while back.

    I also remember that *you* have quite a penchant for tipping boats.

  32. 32 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    yes it is cruel. and humiliating to women.

  33. 33 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    I don’t know what you’re referring to wrt to River but i’d rather keep discussion away from the personality of commenters unless you explain why it’s relevant here.

    I’m still thinking about that husband of hers, and if he thinks it’s ok to humiliate hundreds of women in a feminist conference by getting his wife (directly or indirectly) to make them sing happy birthday to him, then what must he be like with her? Well, I think we can imagine.

  34. 34 Sargasso Sea July 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Sorry WW – the cryptology literally couldn’t be helped and it won’t happen again 🙂

    As to GD, it must be quite difficult to be in her position because she obviously wants (or wanted to anyway before it became a *job*) to put an end to pornography. And as FCM says, being in her position doesn’t make HER a bad person. It makes the system a bad system.

  35. 35 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    of course it doesn’t make her a bad person but it doesn’t take her responsibility away from defining her actions and perspectives as radical feminist when they’re not. Such actions are harmful to women and redefining radical feminism to make it man-pleasing (and dick-pleasing!! talking about the effects of porn on her son’s PENIS!) is harmful to radical feminism.
    So I think she has a responsibility to stop saying it’s radical feminist when it’s clearly not, and stop doing actions that favour men over women (which is always harmful, cruel to women or at women’s direct expense, because so is organised the patriarchy) when she claims to defend women from men’s violence.

  36. 36 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    And thank you S4 for taking on the point about women’s possible physical responses to seeing porn. I do think it has a silencing effect too especially when these responses aren’t discussed or mentioned. And this is just one of the many effects of porn, when we know that “just” commercial ads can be defined as psychological torture to girls and women (ref to the Fiji study FCM talked about in the interview).

    Also it bears thinking about what it means to have a great number (not just a minority) of feminists or radfems who spend a lot of time showing and criticising the hateful images, propaganda and actions of men, and why there are so few known radfems in comparison who focus mostly on positive images, creating and showing a positive, biophilic culture and relationships and forms of creativity, or why this may be less valued or considered in the radfem political world. Why we think that if we don’t primarily focus on what men do any more, we’ll lose the plot, we’re selfish, we’re not doing anything concrete, or “it’s nice and wonderful but it’s not the real stuff”. I’m saying this to myself mostly because it took me some time to accept that it was ok to stop being interested in the constant and overwhelming flow of atrocities that men commit to women. Not that I want to stop hearing about it completely, but I don’t need to seek it any more and seeking it is actually harmful for me.

    Also I realise that working on positive radfem things (I have no better word for it, but it includes in-action, discussion, women meeting together in a radfem context and spinning, healing, connecting, doing creative things, being close to nature, anyway it’s difficult to describe) doesn’t mean staying away from the truth or becoming blind or something, because this is what i feared.

    Also as said in the interview, the male activist model encourages us to sacrifice ourselves for the just cause, and therefore to dissociate our emotions and physical responses from our actions. So we’ll easily ignore or brush it off when we are burned out, stressed, unsatisfied, bored or broken and shattered, instead of taking these signs very seriously and understanding that there’s something wrong with what we’re doing or with what we’re engaging with if we feel that way. It is not normal to feel that way if what we’re doing is supposed to be liberating. Or in other words, these a normal consequences of things that are harmful and destructive to us. But it’s like we are so deeply stuck in men’s world and walls that we can’t even imagine not to look at their insulting, degrading, hateful images every day. As if we had to remind ourselves about their hatred every day lest we forget, and this is exactly what propaganda does.

    I guess protecting ourselves from harmful practices such as viewing men’s woman-hating propaganda again and again should be common sense self-preservation

  37. 37 Rididill July 1, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    I am totally with you on all of this. Like, I find engaging with this stuff really quite psychologically traumatizing. I used to think it made me a bad feminist, that I just needed to ‘get over it’ because otherwise what was the point of my existence, knowing all this and not ‘fighting’ it? Did not have much experience with activism (deep down I was terrified of it b/c it seemed like a horribly damaging thing to throw myself into), but what I did participate in, well I found it quite alienating. And I realized that actually what I was looking for was not activism at all, but radfem community that would actually be healing and positive. Instead it was just horrible… all that conflict all the time, engaging with hateful people, just exposing yourself to continuous hate. I couldn’t do it. And the others in the group were so emotionally confined. It was like they couldn’t talk about anything other than ideological rhetoric, they couldn’t connect on a more personal level. So it just felt really isolating even though it was supposedly a community of women.

    And yeah with you on the disturbing reactions to sexualized women-hating.

    Why is it less valued? I think whatever kind of thing you do, you’ll get accused by other activists of ‘doing nothing’ or doing something that’s ultimately useless. Like, if you are in services to help the wounded, well it’s that you’re doing nothing to stop the problem happening in the first place. If you’re trying to stop that, well it’s never going to work anyway and what about the people who need help now? And if you’re writing? Well heaven forbid you do ANYthing that has such an indirect and invisible impact.

    And yet. Radfem writing has done more to change my life on a personal level, than anything else. Granted, I live in a world where women have fought for my freedoms, and I’m not knocking that. But even though there is always violence present, I think the biggest mode of domination in Western societies is through brainwashing. And writing, and enlightenment through writing, creating communities and new realities – that’s really the ONLY defense against that. And it can reach women on a decentralized level, leading them to create change in their own lives and touch the women around them. That is more than a conference can ever do.

    And um, Marx anyone? writing not real work? doesn’t have an impact? I don’t think so.

    Everyone tries to paint those who critique society as useless whiners and nothing more. seems to be the thing these days, but it’s bullshit.

  38. 38 river July 1, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Someone here, or elsewhere talked about women who have declined to have intercourse (my words as I remember reading the comment).

    She wondered about the outcome of a woman taking such a stance.

    He won’t accept it. Ultimately she will have to leave if she is adamant about it. I was. I did.

  39. 39 Rididill July 1, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    hey actually what’s really funny is that most people will say, why don’t you stop whining and build something positive instead! and then if you do, well it’s still considered a waste of time b/c you’re not trying to change the big picture. I mean come on. You can’t win.

  40. 40 river July 1, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Sorry to spam you.

    I agree with your last comment I see on the blog: we absolutely need to protect ourselves from men’s violence, in real, in imagery, in rhetoric. I admire the women who continue ‘in it’ for their resolve to inform us although I do not always share their stance. Sam and I have talked about this. I stand back and let her do her work her way. I may not want to see it, but I think there is a reason for why they do it. I could be wrong. Hope you will consider an interview. It would be so helpful to us all.

  41. 41 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    I have a similar experience of feeling alienated from activism. And I think one of the most pointless action of all is demonstrating in the streets. Who are we shouting to? Why are we asking some invisible people to do things for us when we know they won’t? We’re not even interacting with the women around us which I find alienating to them too. Some women-only marches (which is different from a demo) are nice to experience but just for the fun of taking the streets with lots of women and feeling safe in public (if the march is really woman and feminist-only, which is rare), but not for another goal than that really.

    ” I think the biggest mode of domination in Western societies is through brainwashing.”

    I agree, but i’d add: the biggest mode of enforcing PIV / rape / pregnancy on women in western societies is through brainwashing.

    Brainwashing isn’t the end-all of western male domination, it’s one of their most developed tool of PIV-impregnation enforcement.

  42. 42 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    I think you might be referring to the comment I made at FCM’s where I said a man stopped PIV?
    I’m glad you left a dude. I don’t understand the point you want to make and how it’s relevant to the discussion though.

  43. 43 witchwind July 1, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Well, if we went to the end of what men want us to do in activism, we would do slutwalks, we would have our rapes in museums filmed by manarchists like pussy riot or expose our breasts to the world and to men in very pornifying positions on the streets.

    And then there’s the other depoliticised end of “positive thinking” which has been invested by the new age

  44. 44 mermaid55 July 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    I am very careful about what images I look at, what movies I see, and what TV comes into my life. In the past, I did see porn to know what it was men were doing to women. And I will regret for the rest of my life, ever going to see “Silence of the Lambs.” I felt overwhelmed by the evil in that movie, and it still haunts me.

    To me, it seems sufficient to just talk about the images in a generic way. Gail Dines has written the books, and doesn’t need to show more womanhating violent porn images to women anywhere.

    We watch this stuff at our period. I have been talking to young women about this, and have been very clear that as women, we need to be free of all male images of women coming at us. That there is a clear difference between porn and art, and that if you watch porn with your boyfriends, it will get into you. It’s the same with music, listen to too much garbage music, and this becomes a very serious aesthetic problem, like eating food filled with non-organic matter, or pesticide covered food. The difference in flavor between a real tomato that is organically grown, and a hot house tomato is striking.

    I look at porn as aimed at dulling the viewing or manipulating the viewer to have sexual responses to horrific things. And people might laugh at me, but I am very conscious in how I look at women, so that I will not use a male way of viewing women, and that I will fully respect all lesbians as completely human, completely lovable, but never as objects. I talk to young lesbians about going to clubs where there are female strippers who are exploiting and drawing lesbians into really perverse male constructed worlds.

    For example, the other day, on the way home from a lesbian event, I had to walk past the biggest gay club in Los Angeles. That evening they had male and female pole dancers and blasting mindnumbing music. The women in there were at real risk.

    So showing the actual porn at radfem conferences is not a good thing at all, just as seeing women as objects and not real human beings is wrong, just as turning women into BDSM objects in the lesbian perverted scene is horrifying as well.

    Organic tomato vs. chemical tomato. In time, we come to think that the chemical tomato is what real tomatoes taste like, just as porn nation invades the female mind, and corrupts female centered sexuality.

  45. 45 Rididill July 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    @ Witchwind “Some women-only marches (which is different from a demo) are nice to experience but just for the fun of taking the streets with lots of women and feeling safe in public (if the march is really woman and feminist-only, which is rare), but not for another goal than that really.

    ” I think the biggest mode of domination in Western societies is through brainwashing.”

    I agree, but i’d add: the biggest mode of enforcing PIV / rape / pregnancy on women in western societies is through brainwashing.

    Brainwashing isn’t the end-all of western male domination, it’s one of their most developed tool of PIV-impregnation enforcement.”

    YES. Thank you for your elaboration, that is spot on. And agreed on the women-only marches.

    The thing about these images is that you can’t protect yourself even after you’ve deconstructed their meaning. You have to create a new consciousness, and our consciousness is constituted from without as well as from within – something which so-called ‘positive thinking’ absolutely denies. All it does is try to change your reaction to external circumstances rather than discovering and avoiding the things which are obviously harmful. It’s a way of cutting yourself off from your perceptions and instincts about harm and trying to transform harmful into positive. Radfem critical thinking does the opposite – it helps you to identify harms and imagine possibilities for a more healing future.

  46. 46 FCM July 2, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    rididill your past paragraph struck me. ive been thinking about sociological images (which was the inspiration for radfem images obvs) and why that project has likely gone on for so long and why its likely to never end, or why someone would likely be able to do it indefinitely. one reason i think is that the “critiques” are either very individualized/special snowflakey (this hurts my feelings, or this is offensive to pansexual transracial disabled amateur birdwatchers) or too general (this ad demonstrates sexism/inequality) and are therefore politically incoherent and dont make a political point. you can literally speak JIBBERISH forever and you never have to repeat it so it seems “fresh” even though its not actually helpful. and you can say everything in the patriarchal media is biased or even “sexist” and that would be true (but seeing as how its patriarchal propaganda and politicized torture, thats hardly the point).

    and theres the reason(s) you articulated — the libfem point is not to “imagine possibilities” that are fundamentally different from the current situation or to identify and remove the harms to women, or to do this ourselves, for ourselves. the libfem point is to reorder the current situation so its the same but not as bad, and to make/get men to do this for us. its a completely different point, so theirs is a completely different project even though ours “looks like” or was modeled after theirs on a superficial level.

  47. 47 FCM July 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    IOW the libfem point is to constantly call attention to these things and then wait for men to agree that they are harmful and then agree to stop, even though they never will. in practice, since men arent going to stop, the libfem point is therefore to stay in the harmful situation forever, but to “resist” it or to appear to resist it — for the sake of resisting. “for the sake of resisting” answers the question of why a project like soc images can go on for years, or forever.

    that they are getting paid to do it, or that the project is connected to their jobs and patriarchal status is certainly part of it too. it would be impossible to overstate the conflict of interest there, in getting paid to do feminist work.

  48. 48 witchwind July 2, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    The thing about these images is that you can’t protect yourself even after you’ve deconstructed their meaning. You have to create a new consciousness, and our consciousness is constituted from without as well as from within – something which so-called ‘positive thinking’ absolutely denies. All it does is try to change your reaction to external circumstances rather than discovering and avoiding the things which are obviously harmful. It’s a way of cutting yourself off from your perceptions and instincts about harm and trying to transform harmful into positive. Radfem critical thinking does the opposite – it helps you to identify harms and imagine possibilities for a more healing future.

    Thanks to you Rididill for spelling that out! Yes radical feminists, as opposed to liberals or new ageists, take the decision to protect ourselves and get away from the assaults and violence (and the men doing it) after we’ve identified it as such. And we strive to create conditions, both external and internal, where we are removed from violence or the threat of violence and intrusion, so imagining alternatives (and creating a new consciousness / a new form of being as you say) becomes possible.

    Liberals won’t ever protect women or it won’t ever be safe for women to be in a liberal space / organisation because the point is to expose ourselves again and again to the oppressors and their mindfuckery, to go back to the war front all the time, until we die, or get very wounded – the point is to be stuck in patriarchy and not get out of it, even if that’s not explicitly intended. As you say FCM the they have to appear to “resist” men, because that’s what they think they have to do and this is the way to do it (because that’s what men do) and they believe that nothing else is possible and it’s the lesser evil / the best there is, and not doing so would equate to selfishness or treason or abandoning women (this is a reversal). Men have successfully shut down women’s capacity to even imagine a world without men and without reacting to them and to what they do – without men defining our actions and thoughts.
    Liberal women, just like New-Ageists, are thus also very removed and cut off from their perceptions and instincts about harm, because it requires strong denial about the deleterious effects reformism, resisting and politicking has on us. This is how we can end up in a conference where women are asked to sing happy birthday to an oppressor and how men get to be included in these “feminist” spaces.

    I’m just reformulating what you’re saying because it was really well explained.

  49. 49 witchwind July 2, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    Also there’s this thing with being able to imagine alternatives once we remove ourselves from violence. There’s no way you can imagine alternatives if you’re not in a condition / disposition where this is possible.

    For example: if I take my case, I’ve been knowing for about since I was feminist that reformism isn’t a solution and that if we want another world we need to create it here and now for ourselves, not wait for other people (men) to do it for us or beg them to give us crumbs. Since then my view has refined and evolved a lot, I’ve taken men completely out of the picture on the way, and other things.

    But the thing is you don’t even need to imagine an alternative once you decide that the alternative will begin now with what you have at hand, and you continue to do what we already do, protect ourselves from violence, to decolonise from maleness, and explore new ways of being and relating with women and the earth, every day. And the alternatives take shape day by day, it’s slow but definitely noticeable and freeing, and to me it has a magical feeling. Because the removal from violence is never a 100% removal at once but a process (you identify one form of harm and then the next, you unpeel one layer of violence and then the next, you reconnect to one part of yourself and then the next – it’s a constant expansion process), creating a new consciousness must necessarily be lived through and experienced every day, and it never stops.

  50. 50 witchwind July 2, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    That previous comment might seem a bit contradictory but i just realised something as I was halfway through writing and that was the point I was trying to make (in the third paragraph).

  51. 51 Rididill July 2, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    No it makes perfect sense! This convo is generating so many thoughts for me…

    first of all, like you said Witchwind, this isn’t even just about imagining alternatives but moving away from reformism and its impact on be-ing… immediately living the alternatives even though you aren’t imagining a model for re-shaping society. Yet. In fact it seems like this whole notion that you have to imagine some new utopia before you can go about changing anything for yourself is really patriarchal and domination-centric… I hear it so much directed at anyone who questions things. Well what’s your alternative? Always sarcastic, and if you haven’t got an answer, well then there was no point in criticizing anything in the first place so STFU and suck it up like the rest of us (basically my childhood in a nutshell, but it goes much wider). It leaves no room for experimentation, really. But there is so much you can do to de-centre men from your existence which, from the outside, actually doesn’t even look that different from so-called ‘normal’ life but in the lived reality of it, it’s a huge transformation. You don’t need a fixed model or goal to start doing that. And it changes the way you think, because it removes the constant stress of constant assaults on your humanity. Like you said

    “and the alternatives take shape day by day, it’s slow but definitely noticeable and freeing, and to me it has a magical feeling.”

    Magical definitely. I am going through some pretty magical transformation at this period in my life with building connections with my mum I have to say. As well as no longer living with Nigel… and a great deal of my motivation to do so has been inspired by blogs like yours and FCMs especially.

    FCM that is really true about libfems. I hadn’t really ever looked at soc images, but yeah I did sort of feel like that about media crit. For ages when I encountered misogyny I would have almost this compulsive urge to bombard the guy with information, to get them to see what I saw and I just could not let it go and of course it just caused me more pain, most of the time. And this is what they are stuck on- this inability to let go of the idea that men are one day going to get it if they try hard enough. And even if they don’t, that they must, for the sake of resisting.

    It’s funny you should say that actually because I was lately thinking about the constant believing in men that libfeminism requires – the continual throwing yourself back into relationships with them and exposing yourself to all kinds of harms with this crazy faith that one day it’s going to be the most awesome, healing and fulfilling thing ever. I was thinking of writing a parody of that poem from Henry V to refer to this, ‘Once more into the breach’

    And then I read the whole thing and thought, well it will be quite hard to get that to fit with the rest of the content. But it embodies that very idea – resistance for resistance’s sake, even if you die. I think this is such a patriarchal idea – that the height of nobility is enduring the pain that others thrust upon you so long as you resist. Or even if you don’t, actually this is romanticized too – you get this with women saying, oh I’m so tough, I don’t need feminism to support me I can stand the bullshit. But to avoid pain? That is cowardly.

  52. 52 Rididill July 2, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    also I think this has sth to with the point of radfem vs libfem knowledge like you said FCM – they are just continually saying ‘this is harmful’ and that’s it, but it does not provoke any grand insights about how the whole structure works.

    Reminds me of something you wrote WW in your page about writing – about how once you’ve had an insight, (which often comes thru writing) it’s boring to go back and write about stale ideas. I feel the same way. If you are searching for insight there’s no need for endless repetition. got to move forward.

  53. 53 Sargasso Sea July 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    That third paragraph? You’re doing it right 🙂

    Because you and R said it clearly, concisely and well.

  54. 54 witchwind July 3, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Imagining something for the future and trying to make the present correspond to this imaginary future image is an exercise in controlling oneself and others so they conform to this fixed image of what the ideal society would look like. It’s a male model for change, and if we go to the end of this model it is simply the application of totalitarianism, or the male-god over-towering the earth and earthlings and treating them like empty clay.

    It doesn’t work because of course people don’t follow, as you can’t mould them like puppets to fit your current framework. Or you’d have to use force, manipulation or male status, hierarchy and power-over (or monopolise some resource or other) to make it go forward and to make people follow you, which defeats the purpose of the project if the aim is to get out of domination modes (a lot of women do use that strategy though for feminist projects).

    I’ve noticed that using this future-fixed image model for action is also a model based on obsolescence because thought and consciousness is constantly moving, it’s not fixed, unless it is actively prevented from moving, like a broken disk repeating the same stuff again and again. So by the time you’ve, say, got people involved in your thing and started your project, you might have already moved on and now you’ve also stuck yourself in this fixed image but you have to finish because you’ve involved people in it, maybe got funding for it, and you’d look stupid if you just walked out.

    Fixed is by definition dead, frozen, lifeless. Trying to making it live is a paradox because it’s a death-movement.

    This leads us back to goal-oriented action as opposed to means as ends action.

    It doesn’t mean that change can’t happen individually and collectively, but that it happens differently to how men say.

  55. 55 FCM July 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    YES to making changes and identifying/removing harms NOW and not bothering for conditions to be right before you do this, or waiting until you can imagine an alternative or a completely-baked alternative. if we WAIT we will be WAITING forever — one cant help but suspect this is the entire point. and AS IF you would ever be able to implement it anyway if it requires participation of everyone else — this is such a good point, and even funny when you think about it. its ludicrous to think we (or any of us, or “women” in general) would ever have the political (domination) power it would take to implement a new global system. its insane, and completely misses the entire point that we dont, and we likely never will, because men have murdered millions of girls and women by now and made themselves the majority globally which is unheard of in nature (its a reversal actually — there should be more females by default). and that men are necrophiles by their nature and this cannot be changed. and and and. these things prevent women from making some kinds of changes but not others. so while western women might have the power and inclination to turn off the TV, women around the world are deciding not to gestate and/or birth males. together these things might actually work and its nothing that could ever be forced or legislated — it has to do with womens intuition/making connections and desire to be free, and doing it in a way that follows natural law too. i think nature itself would support these things. not that i believe “nature” has a consciousness or survival instinct like people or animals do, im just saying it CANT HURT that nature, *if* it had to pick a side, would pick ours. 🙂 and its evidence that we are right because nature is right (it follows natural law — and that cannot be disputed).

  56. 56 FCM July 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    i do want to make a distinction between imagining a completely-baked alternative system, and imagining other things, including being free. it simply is not possible to do the former so theres no reason to even discuss it, but imagination does play a part doesnt it? like, i imagine all the time a male-free world and i dont let the messy details (like HOW to implement this) get in the way of imagining it bc the details are thought-terminating. and i imagine what it would be like and feel like to be free, or i TRY to do this. it is not easy to conjure a sensory or emotive experience out of nothing but i have had that feeling before (or something like it) and its when i was reading sonia johnsons books, especially “sisterwitch” and “going out of our minds”. i came away with a FEELING thats hard to describe, but i think as a writer sonia has achieved the nearly impossible which is to convey to women — the most horrifically and completely oppressed group of people that has ever existed or will ever exist — what it FEELS like to be free, or perhaps what it FEELS like that the possibility even exists. she made me think that we have no idea whats possible, which is true. we dont. and it felt better than the alternative. not “better” in the sense of a balm (or a turning-off of pain receptors like in new-ageism as is said very well above) but better in the sense of a complete paradigm-shift. it was and is exhilarating, and magical.

  57. 57 FCM July 3, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    also, rididll, im so glad to hear that my blog has been helpful to you in this way. thanks!

  58. 58 FCM July 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    AND! as for the libfems constantly saying “this is harmful” but then not articulating why, something about this was painful for me to read. its true, but why is it true? what the hell is wrong with them that they cant be arsed to articulate WHY its harmful — are they just lazy? stupid? it has grated on my last nerve that they wont go to the ends of their thoughts on these issues.

    but just the fact that they can identify/isolate stimulus and say “OUCH” or indeed say/do/feel anything in response tells me that they are using their intuition/instinct which is good. they KNOW that these things are harmful/painful even if thats all they know. so what prevents them from doing literally anything else besides identifying/responding on this rudimentary level? for one thing, its the thought-termination — they have already accepted certain premises which are incompatible with womens liberation from male dominance. namely, “sex” positivism, where “sex” includes or at least doesnt exclude PIV, and where mens sexual and reproductive abuse of women is the root of womens oppression by men. and their refusal to identify/accept females and males as sex-classes. they just will not do it. there are probably other things…i would suggest that they are going against all their own survival instincts (or lying) when they say they believe that men are “really” good inside. on purely a FEELING/intuitive (or survival instinct) level i would say that this is impossible.

    but anyway, *at least* they are identifying/isolating stimulus and responding to it! thats a good start isnt it?

  59. 59 witchwind July 3, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Wrt to imagination, I do think it plays a very important part and I agree with everything you said, it’s good that you made the distinction between the two. I too imagine we are constantly in a male-free world, that men don’t exist around us and that there are only women around me all the time. I try to make this a reality every day as much as I can. I also try to explore physical and sensory feelings whenever I have the time and space to do that. There are many other things too. To take time for myself (and this was very hard at first) and take care of myself as much as I can, to spend as little time as possible doing patriarchal stuff, not engaging in male-determined activities at all. It seems so tiny when I say it but all this impacts on my capacity to think, conceive, imagine, connect and therefore to act – on my freedom of thought. I also actively seek positive representations of women and positive experiences of female bonding. All this together opens up possibilities each day. It impacts both my freedom of thought and my capacity to expand the realm of possible, or expand the realm of what I can imagine as possible, and therefore act upon it.

  60. 60 witchwind July 3, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Yes Rididill I forgot to say, I’m very happy to learn that you have developed a good relationship with your mum and that you’re not living with Nigel any more. That’s immensely great!

  61. 61 witchwind July 3, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Also there are these moments when you just realise it’s possible to feel differently from what you’ve always felt so far, because you start experiencing feelings you’ve never felt before, and it makes a click, it takes you to new places. You realise you don’t have to feel the way you’ve always felt and even that it wasn’t normal, it was wrong. This shift is what takes to new consciousness. Freedom is really something you have to experience and want to experience and explore, not fight for in the male martyr-resistance mode.

    And then once you experience one kind of freedom, it enters in your consciousness and it doesn’t go away, I don’t think.

  62. 62 Rididill July 5, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Yes WW that is very true what you say of built-in obsolescence, as well as being a domination centric mode. I mean I think the idea is that it’s supposed to be a collective vision rather than just a couple of people thinking it up and then imposing it on everyone else, but it never is, is it? And it never could be. Because you can’t get coherence like that out of a movement of millions, not into something fixed. It would have to evolve.

    “if we WAIT we will be WAITING forever — one cant help but suspect this is the entire point.” -FCM

    Yes I suspect you are right about that. And also yes FCM that imagination distinction is very important. I think also it doesn’t hurt to imagine whole new societies too – just don’t expect that this is the way we can enact change, they can just be things in our heads that we bear in mind and share as we work, rather than being totally fixed. But I also agree with you WW that we don’t necessarily NEED to. It can be interesting – but more important is the discovery of where positive energy, healing, creativity and all that – where and how it is best facilitated. And for that often we just have to listen to our own experience.

    “they have already accepted certain premises which are incompatible with womens liberation from male dominance.” -FCM
    yes indeed. And that is why they can’t take the logic any further, b/c the implications of dropping those premises is too scary for them. They are too invested. But it is a good start – I mean, it’s where I started and it’s led me here. Not all will move on of course, but well what can you do?

    “all this impacts on my capacity to think, conceive, imagine, connect and therefore to act – on my freedom of thought.” – WW

    yeah more than I could possibly have imagined. and that’s the thing that you really can’t tell until you try. WW I am very impressed the extent to which you have discovered all these things just by listening to yourself… especially that post you wrote about relationships with men. I think the problem for libfems is that they don’t listen to themselves, their instincts. They assume if they feel bad about something, it’s something wrong with them – they don’t learn to trust themselves so they are easily swayed and blinded by false hopes and bullshit arguments. This was my situation anyway, and what has held me back from making changes.

    and yet, it’s weird, b/c they are always going on about ‘lived experience’ and how that tells them that porn is empowering etc. But honestly I think there must be some heavy repression going on there. even in the past when I had those feelings, there was always something under the surface telling me the whole thing was fucked up, and that something I just kept ignoring.

  63. 63 witchwind July 5, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Yep that was my experience too, my whole life I felt bad and assumed there was something wrong with me. This is also how abused girls react (all girls are and have been abused). Especially when there is no external testimony to the violence we are subjected to and perceive, nothing to confirm its reality and the injustice of it, we believe we are completely alone in experiencing this and the only option we have for it to make sense is to blame ourselves and suppress the pain or dissociate from the pain to maintain the lie that we are responsible for it (and the oppressors enforce this belief through brainwashing). We continue to react on this self-blaming + dissociation mode the rest of our lives, unless we become feminist and see that we are victims of maledom, it’s got nothing to do with us, there’s nothing wrong with us and it’s not our fault men are violent, we aren’t alone, that there’s something wrong with them, and start to reconnect to our responses, perceptions and to other women, and see that we were right.

  1. 1 A Final Analysis | femonade Trackback on August 19, 2013 at 3:28 pm
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