Or where has thinking gone? Why are so few feminists interested in THINKING (and writing those thoughts down for other women to read)? It’s interesting to notice that while women are made to feel no longer qualified enough to listen to other women’s suffering, to relate it to our own, to support each other and see what we can do for ourselves, at the same time discussions about how men’s violence affects us has been mostly wiped out of feminism as a regular or central practice.
Feminism has indeed become much reduced to tedious, boring organisational meetings, institutional work or media campaigning, hierarchical and professionalised, father-state-controlled-and-paid women’s aid, conferences or lecturing, planning one action after the other up until exhaustion. All have in common that there is very little profound thinking, horizontal talking about our lives and furthering radical feminist thought, because it’s either focused on changing men in male-defined, energy-sucking ways, based on male top-down talk modes or patronizing “victim-helping” from a supposed “non-victim” or “non oppressed” position.
So we have this situation where talking about how men’s violence affects us has been confined to a secluded, professionalised, depoliticised and unequal ‘therapeutic” relationship, which leads to feminists dissociating their feminist-doing from their own lives, as if we didn’t need freeing any more, as if we no longer needed to decolonise from men’s mindbindings and had reached a certain point where our only task is to free other women through LOTS OF ACTIONS. Shouting, picketing, demonstrating, lobbying, campaigning, conferencing, etc. More, more, more, we just haven’t tried hard enough!
In a conversation I recently had with a friend, she noted that women new to feminism were typically action-focused. “What is the next action you’re doing”, “when is the next action?”. It’s action, action, action everywhere, and the punchier the action, the better. But only after several months of talking with women, when the absolute horror of patriarchy dawns on them, do they gradually grow out of their action frenzy, and learn to value the profundity of talking to women more. Still another friend made a similar observation about nowadays generation of younger feminists: “all they want is action, but they never stop to think about the meaning and consequences of what they are doing, of what they’re fighting against and whether it’s the best way to do it. They just don’t think any more.”
Today, if we want to talk to and think with women, we often only have the choice between seeing a psychotherapist, or if we’re lucky, there might be a “talking group” in the style of alcoholics anonymous, reserved for “victims of sexual violence” (implying that they’re a minority of unlucky women). They are group talking sessions coordinated by professional or institutionalised “non-victims” who aren’t there to share their own experiences with other women and grow from this exchange, but positioned as (sometimes but not always feminist) non-victims helping the victims, from above. The point of it is for the designated victims to get better and then carry on with their own lives, not to move each other towards freeing themselves from men’s control and men’s violence. And frankly, they sound dull and dreary. And it’s all deeply antifeminist.
I was told recently that yesterday’s feminists over-confidence in the power of CR was a massive mistake, that we should quit this abstract thought mode to focus more on concrete, to-the-ground REAL stuff such as providing women with shelters away from abusers, get women out of danger etc. But pitting reality against consciousness couldn’t be a bigger mistake IMO. Herstory demonstrates that once women stopped talking to each other to concentrate only on “more serious action” and male-style organising, women began to drift away from liberation to revert back into men’s traps. This is the reformist, male-changing trap. Much has been said on the evils of reformism, look at FCM’s place and read S. Johnson for more.
Women talking and thinking together, raising each other’s consciousness by seeking and discovering the truth about men and our condition in men’s world, is the ONLY thing that ever led thousands of women to break free from their cages all at once. Nothing else has ever transformed so dramatically and profoundly women’s lives. Men have never dreaded anything more than women talking together, realising our condition and acting upon each of our realisations. We need to remember that ALL of our radical feminist theory and writing, the theory that we read today and which continues to spark and move so many women, arose from women talking and thinking together. That the entire women’s movement arose from this. Because it IS movement – metamorphosis. It is the movement of constant intermingling, spinning thoughtstreams of women, bonding and deep exchange, of persistently growing consciousness and change/evolution.
It’s always good to take a look at the original sources again:
Consciousness-raising was seen as both a method for arriving at the truth and a means for action and organizing. It was a means for the organizers themselves to make an analysis of the situation, and also a means to be used by the people they were organizing and who were in turn organizing more people. Similarly, it wasn’t seen as merely a stage in feminist development which would then lead to another phase, an action phase, but as an essential part of the overall feminist strategy. [bolds mine]
See how different it is from today? Today collective and personal awakening, if it’s considered at all, is far more likely to be perceived as an initial stage to be gotten over. Once a certain shift in consciousness is experienced, the assumption is made that she now “knows it all or enough anyway” and thus settles at this point to go no further. There is a much male-fostered, rewarded and even harshly-imposed return into stasis, institutionalisation, refusal to go further, repetitive thoughtless action mode. The movement then fails to persist over time and it loses its essential transformative power.
We … saw [consciousness-raising] as an ongoing and continuing source of theory and ideas for action. [still the same source]
And this, which was also quoted in FCM’s article on the importance of thinking and writing:
The call for “action” can sometimes be a way of preventing understanding — and preventing radical action. Action comes when our experience is finally verified and clarified. There is tremendous energy in consciousness-raising, an enthusiasm generated for getting to the truth of things, finding out what’s really going on. Learning the truth can lead to all kinds of action and this action will lead to further truths. […] In fact, part of why consciousness-raising is the radical approach is that women are not coming to take immediate action.
[…] In the end the group decided to raise its consciousness by studying women’s lives by topics like childhood, jobs, motherhood, etc. We’d do any outside reading we wanted to and thought was important. But our starting point for discussion, as well as our test of the accuracy of what any of the books said, would be the actual experience we had in these areas. One of the questions…we would bring at all times to our studies would be — who and what has an interest in maintaining the oppression in our lives.
Consciousness and awakening is at the core of our liberation potential and power. Consciousness precedes all action, and by action I mean transformation in our reality. Consciousness becomes and is the action, but the action cannot supersede or precede it – it can only flow with or along thought transformation. Consciousness centredness also means that any action can be food for thought, insight or new ideas and thus continually generate new actions, too.
Awakening and consciousness is different from positive thinking, intellectualism or abstraction, because the latter is either wishful thinking / dissociation (in the case where women are required to deny the reality of violence and adapt to it) or a mind-on-reality enforcement pattern, based on male rapism and semen-tic emission. Men have a thought in mind, and for it to become reality they have to impress it on their living surroundings by violating them – because it inevitably entails treating surrounding life as a permanent shallow, dead canvas, battered to fit into their rigid mind schemes – schemes which are inherently unnatural and separated from life. A shift in consciousness does not require an internal-to-external emission, impression or enforcement, because it already IS an experience of transformation in which mind, body and spirit (the elements) are one. Our reality gradually transforms as we transform, it is a natural, inevitable and harmonious process. Harmonious, meaning that no unnatural authority, machinery or effort is required to experience the change of reality, as it is VISCERAL and NECESSARY. Necessary in the sense that it will necessarily happen over time, as doing integrates into being.
To talk of my experience, there is a very physical aspect to this shift, movement or sparking. The first and most overwhelming awakening I experienced actually felt like a bolt of lightening had struck through my head and uncluttered the calcified, buried and glued parts of my brain. Uncluttered is maybe too mild a word, rather it felt as if my soul had burst free, igniting and reuniting the dormant, isolated synapses in myself through a stream of light: everything suddenly made sense. It didn’t happen overnight but gradually, I wouldn’t be able to give a particular point in time – I know it lasted several months, maybe even a year. But I clearly remember this distinctive feeling. It wasn’t all joyful. I was first overcome by a shrieking, horrified rage at discovering and seeing for the first time with unfettered eyes the unlimited genocidal crimes of men committed against ourselves and our kind, and the whole world crumbled down. There was this constant scream. My first coming home to woman-identification and to the awareness of belonging to women as an oppressed group, was a howl of despair and anger at seeing the bleak, ravaged wasteland that men had left behind them. I suddenly felt the pang of pain of men’s violations in full blow, as my anaesthesia faltered away and I reincarnated in my body. So began my gradual return to life, the journey into radical feminism and bonding with women, which of course isn’t without many obstacles. And I can tell that this shift has led to many deep transformations and transforming decisions and actions in my life that would have been impossible had I not experienced it. And the movement never stops really.
As Mary Daly says in Pure Lust, apparent microshifts in consciousness have the power to bring macrochanges in our reality, in women’s world and possibly the universe. The power yielded by moving ourselves and other women along with us is incredible. This is what I understand by the physics, or metaphysics of liberation – meta because it isn’t just a physical process, it transcends the physical realm. It reunites our male-fragmented parts and reintegrates ourselves to natural life movement. (Finally I get what Sonia Johnson meant by metaphysics!! this is how I understand it at least, I don’t know if that’s what she meant.) Anyway please read pure lust by Mary Daly, especially the last chapters on friendship and happiness and movement, it’s amazingly refreshening and tells a lot about the meta-physics of liberation (ie the experience of transformation on all levels).