a not so feminist separatist communitarianism

Or: some reflections on hierarchy, non-hierarchy, control and letting things go.

After a succession of intense and mind-blowing discussions with friends, recent events and several weeks of trying to get to the bottom of why I find radical lesbianism so misogynist, I’ve just experienced a major shift or breakthrough in my feminism. One thing led to another, and I realise that the essential problem i’m trying to talk about is much larger than radical lesbianism, and relates to separatist communitarianism as a liberation strategy – the idea we should form a small, elitist community separate from women as much as from men, rather than focus on our potential to bond with all women and on all women’s potential to wake up to our reality.

Thanks to the women who have made this post possible and for their contributions to these insights.

Even though radical lesbianism is a condensed form of separatist communitarianism, it isn’t exclusive to lesbian separatist communities at all and aspects of such attitudes and beliefs can be found in many different feminist groups, to various degrees. So i’ll use this term as a really broad set of attitudes and beliefs of contempt over women outside of the small feminist group and making this the basis of our group identity.

A friend just sent me the definition of epiphany (wiki):

An epiphany (from the ancient Greek epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is an experience of sudden and striking realization. … It can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.

I do have the impression of having having found a missing link which now helps me to see the whole picture with much more clarity and depth. Therefore my focus will no longer be on radical lesbianism and identity politics as such, but on the wider phenomenon of separatist communitarianism, whether it be radical lesbian, lesbian feminist, radical feminist, “intersectionalist”, etc.

When our bonding with women is based on the exclusion of other women, then we aren’t really bonding with women but erecting a fictitious shield of “us” vs “them” to protect ourselves from persecution (a threat in which we include women), but which prevents the spreading of feminism to other women by preventing our contact and bonding with such women. We reproduce a shadow of male bonding or homosociality which is cemented by the exclusion, contempt and putting down of women. We also participate in a very normal – but colonised – survival reaction, reminiscent of our coping strategies at school, which is to gang up in a small group of women and create an artificial group identity based on assimilation to certain behaviours and dress codes as well as exclusion or even mockery of other girls, in order to escape the psychological devastation of extreme isolation, social persecution and scapegoating. Separatist communitarianism bears some resemblance to this strategy. It is understandable, but I realise it isn’t feminist and can’t liberate us as a class.

Separatist communitarianism based on fear and dissociation.

Why fear? Separatist communitarianism, as mentioned above, is a natural reaction to anti-woman social persecution and isolation. Social persecution orchestrated by men is so total that we experience rejection and misogyny as the wiping out of our soul, as psychic annihilation – it’s what it is. We want to escape the real threat of being killed, the end-point of social erasure and persecution.

Separatist communitarianism also is based on the terror of being abandoned or betrayed by women. Putting a distance between ourselves and other women by feeling superior or outside (claiming the most oppressed status is part of it) is an unconscious way to cope with the unbearable isolation of being amongst misogynist women, or a way to cope with the terror of being rejected by the women we love or place our hopes on. We put an emotional distance between us and women in the hope that it will prevent ourselves from being hurt.

This emotional distance comes at the cost of losing empathy with women and empathy for ourselves, and losing touch with ourselves and other women, which is the basis for misogyny. It’s a form of anaesthetic which gives an impression of invulnerability and strength but which isn’t quite true, since the reason we do this is because we’re vulnerable, oppressed, and we’re traumatised by persecution and rejection by people who were supposed to care for us. This distance provides temporary relief or (false) sense of security, but doesn’t prevent rejection unfortunately since it’s based on rejection. If that makes sense.

Our first source of security as humans (females) comes from women, that is, as a child, from our mother. We relate to women and to the world in part according to how our relationship to our mother was structured: our basic psychological development and survival in the first several years of our life is essential and entirely dependent on our close bond and care from the mother or female surrogate.

Men break this security by oppressing both mothers and daughters, taking control over women and girls. They create a state of abandonment and forced betrayal by the mother which they then take advantage of to organise trauma-bonding to men.

Once we become feminist though, it’s easy to separate ourselves from men because our bonds to them were never a source of safety, were always fake. We realise men don’t represent anything to us.

However with women this is different because #1: we know that a true bond is and has been possible therefore it hurts more to  lose it and #2: once we become feminist and no longer interact with men, we’re more likely to associate women with the fear of being abandoned and betrayed once again and #3 our liberation is dependent on our connections with women, which makes rejection even more intolerable. I don’t think there’s a more excruciating emotional pain than that of being rejected by women we love or count on. It also triggers the traumatic memory of first abandonment, more or less pronounced in women.

So I think separatist communitarianism, by way of putting lots of distance, statuses, hierarchy and barriers between me/”us” vs “other” women (lesbians vs het, radical vs colonised, “real” victim vs. “false” victim, “star author and academic” vs anonymous blogger, etc.) is an unconscious way to protect ourselves from the risk and fear of the pain of future betrayal by women (which we may consciously rationalise as a way to protect ourselves from women’s misogyny infiltrating in our groups or minds). It also explains in part the bottomless anger we can feel against women when our needs and expectations of safety and sorority aren’t met, on top of male reversals etc.

Anyway, I don’t think separatist communitarianism works as a liberation strategy – as in dissociating from “other” women and from oneself on top of separating from men, however appealing the idea of escaping patriarchy may sound: It isn’t viable as a way to liberate all women.

Recruitment is not a feminist strategy

The obsession with recruiting masses (or even smaller numbers) of women into a more or less purist elite club doesn’t work. Recruitment is based on the wrong perception that we are already outside or above other women and that they need to make the effort to heave themselves up to our ranks; not the other way round. While it’s true that women who’ve escaped individual appropriation by men have escaped the worst of oppression and that freeing ourselves from men is the major part of liberation, it’s not true at all that we’ve reached some kind of pinnacle, a “there yet” land outside of patriarchy or outside of the influence of colonisation by male perversions. The fact is that separatist communitarianism is a very product of oppression. The very fact of feeling superior to this or that “other” woman is a colonised reaction. There’s nothing to feel guilty about, but it just isn’t feminist.

Recruitment into a movement is a male tactic. It requires the use of force, even minimally: that is the use of persuasion. It requires controlling speech and interaction (out of fear of hearing misogynist or anti-feminist things), not really listening to the woman in front of you, not paying attention to where her position comes from and on what violence against her it’s based. Even if it’s well-intentioned, it requires treating her as a target for your explanation and recruitment rather than as a person and requires treating women as numbers. We forget the bond we can create with this woman and that she too has the potential to originate feminist insights and participate genuinely in the movement. It’s alienating, both for the recruiter and recruitee. Women don’t need to be “taught” but to find the means to wake up to our own reality, we can’t bash or brainwash the truth into a women’s head: liberation can’t be imposed on.

We want to recruit because we are desperate, we are isolated as radical lesbian feminists, and we can’t stand the constant backlash against feminism or how dire the situation is. But the irony is that recruitment and putting ourselves above or outside women reinforces isolation, anger and desperation more than anything else. It puts in a perpetual state of frustration, dissatisfaction and disappointment because we’re always waiting for and expecting something that doesn’t yet exist and isn’t happening now. It fuels resentment on both sides because it’s based on unrealistic expectations of what women can accomplish given their current situation. So when women aren’t capable of meeting these expectations (for instance that all women call themselves lesbians in solidarity of lesbians, or that they all leave their boyfriends NOW, etc.) this causes feelings of guilt and shame of being a failure in the “othered” women, and causes feelings of being betrayed and let down in the “aboved” women.

But being impatient about women not ‘freeing themselves fast enough’ is like asking women to run when their feet are still chained and to leap when their minds are still bound. It’s a mindfuck. It’s like requesting someone to swim now when they’ve never learnt how to swim. We should see things the other way round. It’s up to us swimming experts to spend time with women and show them how to swim and help them overcome their fear of water, and once they are ready we’ll dive in together as naturally as fish. If we want our sisters to “join” us, we have to come to them. Reach out to them. Help create emotional and material conditions for all of us in which they can free their minds from the male mindbindings – and once such conditions are met the mindbindings will unpeel naturally one after the other, the magic will unfold, there will be no great effort to produce as the magic of consciousness raising is that change happens viscerally. As women lucky enough to understand the workings of patriarchy, the onus is on US to do the work of consciousness-raising. It makes complete sense to me.

Feminism is about bonding with women

(I know, I know this is being repeated again and again and sometimes in so many vacuous contexts but I just uncovered a new meaning to it)

Creating divides between women and treating women as “other”, divides us. It’s not feminist. I realise how strongly feminism is dependent on the inter-individual connections we create with women since the only alternative to patriarchy is the world we create between ourselves. And for our world to be truly alternative it has to be based on relationships that are sustaining, safe, nourishing and feminist. This can happen online, IRL, etc, but I don’t see any other way. Otherwise we automatically fall back into dissociation, denial, fragmentation, division, anger against women, etc. I find it important to interact with women from as many backgrounds as possible, talk to them, listen to their stories.

Feminism just can’t happen or flourish in conditions where we put ourselves above other women or castigate them for not being feminist enough, are frustrated when they don’t meet our expectations of what a good radfem should be, or distrust women’s potential for change and leaps. It doesn’t mean that we never make any mistakes, that there are never any tensions, conflicts and obstacles, but if we can understand that, there’s always room for adjustment and cooperation according to our needs and circumstances.

Feminism can only spread by creating genuine horizontal relationships with women and genuine bonds in which we trust each other’s capacity or potential to participate in radical feminism and freedom of all women. When we take each other into consideration it’s easier to respect our pace and rhythm, to be aware of what we’re capable of doing right now, of the level of danger we face and reward each other for the small (yet big) steps we’ve made.

One day all our bonds will form a web so tight that I hope nothing will be able to break it again.

As a radfem / lesbian feminist, creating a trusting relationship with a woman is in itself a concrete material condition which makes leaps possible. Feminist-centred woman-bonding has to be experienced directly in order for it to be conceived as an alternative, in order to be able to live this alternative. It can’t be explained if the woman has never experienced it. This is another reason why woman-bonding is the driving force of feminism. Sparking can only happen in a situation of true equality and horizontal exchange.

It really doesn’t mean we should accept misogyny and violence from part of women and I never will, but the response to it isn’t by going against such women. The only way to share feminism is within a context (discussion group, gathering) defined by radical feminist principles, by really taking women into consideration rather than trying to distance ourselves from them by one means or another. Once we stop viewing women as an “other” camp, once we’re in empathy with how they’re being trapped by embedded misogyny or men and trust in women’s capacity to free themselves, once we trust women’s potential; it really takes the tension and desperation away, relieves us from the feeling that we have to control the interaction and from the perceived burden of having to free all women. We no longer see the world as resting on our shoulders, and just let things flow.

Non-hierarchy is truly the most amazing thing to experience: that is when you come to the point where you can rely on your feminist peers, follow the flow, and everything you create is intimately intertwined with the creations and input of other women. Where you trust that everything they will say will be mindblowing, witty, and bring a new light and dimension to what we are discussing, or what we are co-creating. Where ideas that aren’t as good are naturally discarded for the better ones.

I now much better understand the profound meaning of women being naturally anarchic. We really are. And when it happens, it’s just magical. When we let ourselves be carried by the flow, It feels like witnessing bursts of life, the very movement of life, and participating in it too.

Anyway, I don’t know if any of this makes sense.

 

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54 Responses to “a not so feminist separatist communitarianism”


  1. 1 witchwind July 2, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    comments are now open, sorry for the delay.

  2. 2 witchwind July 3, 2014 at 1:29 am

    i’m not quite sure what I’ll make of this post so far. There are probably some ideas that’ll evolve or that i’ll think over. It’s something i’m struggling myself with, between the fear of rejection, desire to shield myself and painful situations that resurge every now and then.

  3. 3 witchwind July 3, 2014 at 1:35 am

    also, i’m very aware that things are easier said than done. I’ll see in a few weeks what experience from this insight will tell me.

  4. 4 skulldrix July 3, 2014 at 1:50 am

    On that thought it actually makes perfect sense and this is what I and so many feminists like Oana have been struggling with for the past few weeks.

    I desire to be a true radical feminist lesbian, but I also want to influence and save other women. But I know that It’s very challenging to decolonize other women by just trying impose your beliefs on them. And at the same time other women can be destructive when they emit harmful internalized misogyny and try to use other women to comfort them while they spend all their time trying to bond closer to males.

    So I know that I have failed many women into becoming radical feminists, and in ways I wonder If that was due to my inability to explain things correctly or understand their situations. Or maybe saying phrases like ” All he wants is sex/ All men are same/ He’s using you/ You should just stop talking to him” is possibly a little insensitive, in the fact, that it’s very directly naming of a reality, while these women don’t even think women are oppressed.

    Or maybe it was just seemed too radical and abstract to their situation, and that I was just laying these wild ideas on them that they resisted because they had no foundation for them like me.

    I have foundation for that reality, I’ve read many feminist books, blogs, and am connected with other radical feminists. But not them.

    What I’m trying to say is, while the women in my life and women I have tried to recruit, and the women I know that I will never be able to reach at this time,

    why do I still care for them? Why do I still skip a heart beat when I see them, or feel the dopamine shoot through my system when we hug? Or why do I feel so strongly for my co-worker who I just met to day when a man disrespected her by calling her a man ( she doesn’t appear traditionally feminine)? Why did I spend 15 minutes after a long 91 degree weather work day looking for her to express my concern?

    It’s because radical feminism is about bonding with women. Women are naturally loving and caring towards each other. That is a fact. As you nailed it. And ever since I became a serious radical feminist, I could feel other women.

    And that’s something I just can’t stop. No matter how colonized the woman is I still feel closer to her than I will ever a man.

    And whenever I do judge a woman or try to avoid colonized women, I feel a rise of misogyny inside, I feel like I’m acting like an exclusive elitist, like a man. I feel guilty.

    So that’s why many of us just can’t leave our female sisters, just can’t leave them behind, it’s counter-logical to feminism in general. And that’s one of the main reasons 1970-80s feminism failed.

    You really nailed it. But I do admit that I do believe in putting a limit to the amount of energy and care I put in to colonized women.

  5. 5 witchwind July 3, 2014 at 3:04 am

    Thanks for your thorough response, I really appreciate it.

    I agree that coming to radical feminism to me has been about feeling women, Seeing Women beyond the layers of male torture and seasoning.

    My personal history of trauma has meant that I’ve coped with “shielding” myself too, although it never worked and just meant I was constantly retraumatised. I just understood recently for instance that it’s possible to be attentive to women’s needs without it meaning that they reject me, that I have to annihilate my being, that I’m a stain and burden on this person: that it’s possible not to take it personally at all, that it has nothing to do with me. This may appear obvious and it probably was in theory for me too, but to actually experience this and understand what’s happening behind it another thing. Just this shows what a minefield it is.

    your last phrase: well i agree we should always respect ourselves. Self-sacrifice is destructive.

    I don’t think we should feel guilty for judging or avoiding colonised women, simply understand why we’re doing it, understand what kind of suffering we’re trying to avoid by doing so and find a way to empathise with the woman instead.

    Will reply more later

  6. 6 oanaradfem July 3, 2014 at 3:05 am

    i agree with you, skulldrix. you make a lot of good points and i really can relate to all the aspects you bring up.

    you said: “So I know that I have failed many women into becoming radical feminists, and in ways I wonder If that was due to my inability to explain things correctly or understand their situations. Or maybe saying phrases like ” All he wants is sex/ All men are same/ He’s using you/ You should just stop talking to him” is possibly a little insensitive, in the fact, that it’s very directly naming of a reality, while these women don’t even think women are oppressed.”

    i don’t think it’s that simple in that radical feminists fail to transform other women into radical feminists. I know that when it comes to being in the real world, it’s just so hard to put in words radical feminist insights about men. I know this has happened to me also. This may be due to the fact that we are used to censor ourselves. Some man may overhear our conversation, the woman we are speaking to might think we’re crazy and tell others what we said, including men. These things may have repercussions in regards to our job, men might retaliate etc. We are left with cliches, which even if they are true about men, they don’t really hit the nail for women. Women may have heard those things before, but they take it as a joke, not as a serious argument or a description of reality.

  7. 7 witchwind July 3, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    i think often our desperation to bring women to radical feminism trumps the need to take into account the woman’s situation, what she’s ready to hear, etc. It’s not something easy and straightforward though and again i don’t think we should feel guilty for failing, simply learn from it and move on, and understand that we tried our best and had the best intentions for our friends but simply it doesn’t really work to try to bash the ideas in women’s heads. Also each situation is different so it’s really a case by case analysis each time. It’s hard but we must find ways in which women can come to these truths by themselves, where they can have the space to have their own thought paths, because all women have them. Asking questions helps, and even doing some kind of thought exercises on trying to find the continuum of constraints put on women, etc.

    By experience radical feminism is best brought in feminist discussion groups where there’s a group of women who want to discuss feminism and discuss aspects of their lives with a feminist understanding. It’s amazing how fast things go in such a short time, because the fact a group of women are raising consciousness together immediately takes out a lot of the fear of feminism and of going to the end of our thoughts.

    If the woman really isn’t ready to hear about feminism, on a one-to-one basis it can be really, really slow. She’ll just identify you as the crazy feminist and anything you say will be heard and filtered through this lens.

  8. 8 Tracy25 July 4, 2014 at 1:44 am

    Some Preliminary Thoughts. I can see why anyone would Struggle with this, it is not an Easy thing to describe. And I may have missed the Point. But let me begin by Saying, that Feminism itself is a response by Colonized Females to Patriarchy, and to our Oppression at the hands of Men. Is it Not? In other Words, Feminism would not Exist outside Patriarchy, there would be no Need for it. Separatism can be both a Response to Patriarchy, and something that would also Exist outside Patriarchy as the Default reality, without Patriarchy there would be 90% less males than there are now for example, and probably 99% less Humans in General if Natural law were allowed to play out. If Women, and not Men, were in charge of All things Sexual and Reproductively related. And Females would live alongside each Other, with (only very few) Males on the periphery. This would be the natural Way of things. As it is now, from Within Patriarchy, females Separate from males for many reasons, including preventing Extraction of Female Resources by parasitic males. Female enabling/fueling of male Power, power which is largely or totally Necrophilic by the way, has caused or Assisted in bringing about the Global Patriarchal Horrors we see today (and even possibly the End Times which you have spoken about before). Naming this and recognizing it, and trying to slow/end it, and reverse or remedy it is a Radical Feminist response because it gets to the Root of our Oppression at men’s hands and materially alters it. Interestingly, separatist Alteration of the Root happens with or without Radical intent (apolitical women refusing to enable/fuel male power would have the same effect of starving Males and Patriarchy of female resources). This is Important.

    To say that Separatism (or Female communitarianism) cannot be or is not Radical or Feminist therefore just is not True. Is it? Perhaps what you are Tired of, or are beginning to not consider to be Feminist, is any Response by Colonized Females to Patriarchy. You are rejecting Politics, in other words, and No One who has been involved in this Movement in any significant way, for any significant time, would probably blame you. Perhaps you are Feeling or Intuiting the difference between Women’s Culture, which is not a response to patriarchy by colonized females and would exist outside Patriarchy, and Radical Feminism, which is a Colonized response dependent upon it (and therefore, something we should not become Attached to, or intent on perpetuating). If you are, I think you are on the Right Track. Again, I do Apologize if I have missed the point.

  9. 9 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 1:58 am

    hi, i was talking here specifically about separating from women as a politics as opposed to just separating from men as politics. I wasn’t questioning the politics of separatism from men and male institutions, sorry if this wasn’t clear enough, and you would be right to be worried about my mental health if I did start doing that one day. my criticism was of making politics based on division between women, creating camps between women.

    Creating groups between like-minded women and radical feminists is inevitable and necessary but when it’s based on the rejection of other women or treating other women as inferior because more colonised, this is when it becomes problematic IMO.

    I called what i’m criticising “separatist communitarianism” for a lack of better word i guess. but i see it more as the effect of bonding on the criticism of other women (rather than the criticism of men)

    but it’s a very good point that feminism is a response by colonised females to patriarchy.

  10. 10 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 2:06 am

    also, i’ll add that it’s quite unusual for me to write about completely new concepts the day after i’ve thought about them, so many of the stuff i’m writing about might not be as refined. I mean i usually take lots of time to let my thoughts mature. this was quite fresh in comparison. But really, what i’m talking about is an intra-woman situation, i’m talking about the world of women who have already left men (assuming this to be the default position) and how we relate to women within these conditions.

  11. 11 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 2:09 am

    that is, diffusion and spreading of feminism (of women’s liberation) can’t be done through rejecting women as a whole. i notice it’s something i’ve done too, to certain degrees, because i was afraid of “contamination” by misogyny, something which i’ve observed in many different places, which is why i feel i can talk about it.

  12. 12 Lisa Jones July 4, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Witchwind, I’m glad that you’re still thinking about and refining your position. Your previous two posts had me worried because they sounded an awful lot like: Blame radical lesbians. Radical lesbians aren’t feminists. Radical lesbians are as oppressive as men. Radical lesbians are like men in the sense that they punish women for having relationships with men. (This is an oversimplification. Again, this is how your posts sounded to me.)

    Women can and do behave abominably toward other women — whether radical lesbian or not. Women can be mean and ruthless and exclusionary. We all know this. We all have some experience of this. All women are, to varying degrees, colonized and traumatized by male supremacy, and this can make for messed-up interactions among women, especially regarding intimate relationships. Singling out radical lesbians as somehow the worst of the worst simply doesn’t ring true for me.

    I appreciate your thoughtful critique of separatism. I feel that separatism — time and space apart (or even alone) — is absolutely essential for gaining clarity and maintaining sanity. Time and space apart just for lesbians, say, or for new mommies, or for female aeronautical engineers — time and space apart for you, by yourself — all are completely necessary. I think we all see the value of “a room of one’s own.”

    When this desire for separatism becomes organized into rigid factions with hierarchies and purity tests, the problems of exclusion arise. Still, a group has to set boundaries, right? If, for instance, new daddies start crashing the new mommies group, effectively turning the group into something different, effectively erasing the original group: How do you stop this from happening? With rules/boundaries/separatism that some people aren’t going to like.

    So it is with lesbians. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many self-proclaimed heterosexual women think it’s cool to “slum” as a “lesbian for a night” — going out to the big monthly lesbian party to dance, drink, and hook up with another woman. From the perspective of lesbians looking to dance, drink and hook up with another woman, this IS cool. Nobody has high expectations of establishing deep, meaningful relationships.

    But suppose you’re a lesbian who DOES want a deep, meaningful relationship? Are you going to find it with a woman who believes that “lesbian” is a costume she can wear when she chooses? Is it wrong (or in any way oppressive toward other women) to establish boundaries about who you’ll sleep with, and who you’ll take seriously as a romantic partner? I hope you’ll agree that the answer is no.

    Most lesbians are completely turned off by male sexuality. Some lesbians are completely turned off by women whose sexuality revolves around men — women whose modeling of “sexy” is no different than mainstream male culture’s expectation of “sexy.” Lesbians who reject “hetero-sexy” women as romantic partners aren’t oppressing anyone. Lesbians who refuse to be intimately involved with women who prioritize male sexuality aren’t oppressing anyone.

    Ww, when you criticize radical lesbians, maybe I’m not sure who you’re talking about. Yes, there are some disturbing trends in the lesbian community at large, such as a growing tolerance of BDSM, porn, lez-bro fratboy behavior, and a total drank-the-koolaid embrace of marriage as an institution of social justice. These are disturbing trends in American culture at large, however, not just the lesbian community.

    I wanted to add these comments to your previous two posts. I’m glad you’re allowing comments here.

  13. 13 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 2:10 am

    *rejecting women and/or having contempt for women who haven’t been able to leave men, male perversion and ideologies to the same extent we have.

  14. 14 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 2:11 am

    whether or not we choose to interact with women and find it safe to do so, i think empathy should always be the basis of our understanding of women, whichever place they’re at now.

  15. 15 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 2:12 am

    and i’ve noticed that this clearly isn’t the case in many separatist (radfem, lesbian, etc) spaces.

  16. 16 Tracy25 July 4, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Ok, you are talking about Separation from Females, and Specifically criticizing and ostracizing other Women, as an Ideology (radical lesbianism and het-bashing). Correct? Well, Separating from very badly or steadfastly colonized females is related to Separating from Men and Patriarchy, one reason as has been Mentioned above is that very badly Colonized (Patriarchal) women give everything they Have (or are robbed of it) over to Men. So when we Share our resources with these Women, we are Ultimately benefiting and enabling/energizing men. We put time and energy into Building women Up, and they are Re-Energized to go back and Cater to and Build up abusive men. I have seen this a hundred times myself, from both sides. The other reason is safety reasons, where Patriarchal women will always, always bring Males into Female space or practice Exceptionalism with their particular men. This is Exhaustive of Female energy, and enables males. I do think there is still the possibility of an Awakening however. And separating from all women precludes this from happening, or from You having anything to do with it. What do you think?

  17. 17 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 2:16 am

    the fear of contamination is a legitimate fear, but i realise that there are other ways of dealing with this wrt women than rejecting the women or putting them down etc. i’m not saying we do that with bad or nasty intentions or that we should feel guilty or anything

  18. 18 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 3:43 am

    hi lisa tjanks for your comment, will reply later.

  19. 19 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    @ Lisa

    Your previous two posts had me worried because they sounded an awful lot like: Blame radical lesbians. Radical lesbians aren’t feminists. Radical lesbians are as oppressive as men. Radical lesbians are like men in the sense that they punish women for having relationships with men.

    I’m afraid to say I haven’t changed my position wrt radical lesbianism, this post was more adding a new insight to it. Also I have never said radical lesbians are to be blamed for the misogynist ideologies they uphold, and never will you catch me saying that women are as oppressive as men, never. Also by definition misogyny is never specific to one colonised group of women, and aspects of it can be found everywhere in patriarchy since men’s domination is everywhere on this planet. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t focus on specific aspects of misogyny, how it operates in this or that context, because variations are important since they don’t target the same groups of women. I don’t see any reason not to focus specifically on radical lesbianism – I did a series that focused specifically on intersectionality or identity politics, because the way it works warrants attention to identity politics on its own. I’m interested in discussing things that have rarely or never been discussed before in writing in the radfem world. For this reason I’ve never written a series on liberal feminism or BDSM because it’s been discussed at length by other radfems / lesbian feminists and I don’t have that much to add to it, or not as much as with these topics.

    Also I’m very careful not to talk about radical lesbIANS but to refer to radical lesbianISM as an ideology, which isn’t the same approach. I distinguish women from the ideologies we’re trapped in. Radical Lesbianism doesn’t entirely belong to women since it’s a sort of outgrowth from patriarchal ideology mixed with a response to escape patriarchy. I have started this series in order to explain what’s it about, what it’s based on, where it comes from, how it works etc because many women ignore its ramifications. I’ll be more specific about what I’m talking about in future posts, it has taken some time to do some more in depth research. The reason why I want to focus on radical lesbianism is because it forms part of some of the major pseudo-feminisms along with identity politics, and is actually one aspect of identity politics except that it’s a bit more complex. Many women especially lesbians confuse it with feminism and get trapped into it. It’s not lesbianism per se that i’m criticising, but some kind of sub-culture which is a hybrid between lesbianism separatism, LGBT and identity politics (lesbian and butch visibility etc) and misogyny. I’m very strongly in defense of feminist lesbianism, as in lesbianism based on feminist politics and principles. I’m sorry if you don’t understand now what I’m talking about, I hope you will as I’ll write more about it.

  20. 20 oanaradfem July 4, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    witchwind, you said: “the fear of contamination is a legitimate fear, but i realise that there are other ways of dealing with this wrt women than rejecting the women or putting them down etc.”

    And what other ways may be that don’t drain our energy or rob us of our resources?

    Maybe putting them down it’s not a good way, because in some way it consumes our energy. I remember when i got mad at colonized women and got into fights with them, i was always losing something, it consumed me inside and i felt drained.

    But how about rejecting them? I think that it’s somehow a good idea, or maybe this might be my knee-jerk reaction. I’d rather focus on getting away my resources and energies away from the patriarchal machine, than focusing on liberating other women (which may fail and it’s a very frustrating way of living). Withdrawing our energies and resources from men it’s not an easy task and it’s got an energy cost. On the long term, the energy cost it’s covered, but on the short term, you’ll have to give everything we’ve got. We have learned how to rely on the patriarchal technologies etc, and starting from scratch again requires us to re-learn all the ancient crafts.
    There are resources (written material, which is more in the english language, though) ((sure, women in my country might never have the chance to come across these blogs, because they don’t know english, but i don’t care, really)) (((alright, this sounded a little bitter))) for women who are questioning the patriarchal way of life. No woman irl has ever told me about radical feminism. I’ve searched it myself without knowing what i was looking for, and here i am, a radical feminist willing to liberate myself.

  21. 21 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    @ Lisa what you say about boundaries, it’s obvious that we should respect ourselves and our integrity and I’m not saying we shouldn’t choose our friends, the women we love, the women we want to work with etc. This happens pretty naturally actually and it’s not necessary to create a competitive, purist elite club in order to choose the women with whom we want to spend our time with and invest energy for.

    @ Tracy25 What I mean is that we’re not going to have the same attitude towards men as towards women. All men are to be dispensed with in our lives, and it’s counter-productive and even dangerous for own safety to try to feel empathy for men and see their violence as a result of past victimisation, because it’s completely unfounded.

    However, for women the opposite is true: even when women are being violent, misogynist or do things that are against their own and women’s interests, whether or not we choose to interact with them, we should always feel empathy for this woman and understand her violence or misogyny as a result of past violence and abuse by men, and as perverted survival strategy to dissociate from suffering. It doesn’t mean we condone the violence but we understand her. We don’t see her as the enemy. We feel empathy for the immense trauma she has survived and which led her to react in this way. It’s simply a disposition of mind, a way of viewing women that prevents being angry against women and feeling contempt for women. It’s necessary because all women have the potential of awakening, and we should always focus on her potential to reconnect to herself and understand why she is doing this.

    *I edited the commented to make it clear who I was replying to.

  22. 22 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    back to why i still want to criticise radical lesbianism, is because just as identity politics / intersectionality, it’s something that has been theorised and institutionalised and includes a whole set of group behaviour and beliefs. I would like women to be aware of this and how it differs from radical feminism and lesbian feminism. Radical lesbianism has been part of the backlash against lesbian feminism and radical feminism. It’s unfortunate that it’s called radical lesbianism as it makes me appear to be criticising lesbianism per se but this isn’t the case at all. As I said in my previous comment, i’m in defense of lesbianism that’s profoundly centred on feminist ethics.

  23. 23 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    @ Oana, the reason i discovered feminism is in large part because i’m lucky, and this holds true for all women. I was certainly lucky enough to have access to the different things in my life that allowed me to see through patriarchal ideology and reversals at the time I did. I was lucky that at the time I started waking up to the reality of patriarchy and its workings, I had access to radical feminist literature as soon as I looked for it, and that I had the intellectual skills and time to go through all of it and learn as much as i could. I was lucky to be able to meet like minded women very quickly. I was lucky that at the time, I wasn’t bound to any man, with children, or in any kind of situation that would have kept me back and halted my feminist progression, at least for some time. I had no material obstacle to my leaping into feminism and separatism from men: beginning to live in coherence with my feminist principles didn’t mean that I’d have to figure out how to eat, survive on my own without any support for some time, lose child custody, leave an abuser in a very dangerous situation, etc. Losing all my male connections wasn’t a big deal since none of them had any economic or emotional control over me with which they could punish me or something for no longer being subordinate, and I wasn’t even tied to a job at the time. I wasn’t living in the kind of danger that prevents any kind of thoughts, whether radical feminist or not.

    These material circumstances haven’t been consciously chosen and prepared by myself beforehand in anticipation of what was going to happen, they were simply there. I didn’t tell myself before: maybe I shouldn’t have a boyfriend for the next two years so that when I discover feminism, I’ll be able to dive into it more easily. Feminist consciousness isn’t something you can plan ahead of time, before you’re feminist. None of this was conscious, one moment followed the next and it’s only afterwards, with hindsight, that I realised the significance of the events and how they connected together. Even today, past moments still bring new meanings.

    It’s also not true that women remain passive in the face of male violence, or don’t try hard enough to survive and escape. Adapting to male violence is in itself a survival strategy, which should be recognised as such, even if it’s a paradoxical one that ultimately reinforces our subordination to men and self-destruction. But no woman completely adapts to male violence. Even in our more colonised periods, we have all fought against men’s control over us in some way or another. We fight every single day against our abuser. Women who are in “relationships” with men (under their control) have to spend every moment defending the little integrity that’s left to them. The reason so many women don’t escape is because they can’t at this given moment, the material and psychic conditions of relative safety aren’t yet available to her. Most women die without ever having had access to feminism.

  24. 24 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Also, i think it might be worth trying to put yourself in your friend’s position:

    there was a time when i was completely anti-feminist and was completely deluded by men’s lies about the sexual liberation: that it was all about being fucked by men. I have no idea how I would have reacted to radical feminism at the time as it wasn’t ever presented to me before I sought it myself, which means that there rarely was a gap between my availability to leap into feminism and how feminism was presented to me. This isn’t the case with many of our friends: we’ve moved on, but they haven’t. We must be aware that trying to impose our awareness on them can be experienced as a form of pressure or even violence, if they’re not ready yet, or simply if the context in which we explain our ideas isn’t the right one.

    If bringing your friends to feminism is a goal, then you have to find a context for your friends which allows them the space to come to feminist observations by themselves, and where going to the end of their thoughts will no longer be perceived as a threat. There are many ways of doing this. Otherwise, if this isn’t possible, patience and empathy is the only solution, ie being really attentive to what they can and can’t hear / what their needs are and moving along from there, and it works too but takes more time.

    And if it’s too hard and painful to interact with them, because it triggers too many emotions that are overwhelming and can’t deal with and means that you’ll be angry against them, the best thing is to take a step back and try to untangle the situation in your head. It might take lots of time. It might also be that the fear of them rejecting you or them not being feminist enough prevents you from seeing where they are and what they need right now, because it relates to unbearable pain. All this is very complicated, I’m just understanding some things now that I didn’t understand before.

    Also, I just don’t see any problem in choosing our friends.

  25. 25 witchwind July 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    wrt consuming energy, when it’s draining i think it’s a sign we’re not doing it right. It shouldn’t be energy consuming, and of course we should stop if that’s the case. Letting go of the idea that WE have to liberate other women FOR them and the responsibility rests on our shoulders doesn’t mean letting go of women altogether or of solidarity with women. It means stop expecting things from them they can’t do right now, but keeping faith that they will be able to do it in their own time, taking into account the factors around her that might hold her back longer (ie controlling boyfriend, family, environment, very heavy PTSD, etc).

    I think it’s important to try to analyse our own reactions and expectations: why are we so angry with this or that women? What kind of loss do we fear? What pain does it relate to? What are we trying to protect ourselves by doing this? Is this reaction relevant to the situation? Is it helpful for me, and for the woman in front of me? What will happen if I let go of it, does it mean this or that? I don’t know whether this helps, but does for me.

  26. 26 Tracy25 July 4, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I believe I am beginning to Understand you now, and within the Context of this series on Radical Lesbianism. You are saying that Radical Lesbianism holds that it is necessary and correct to not merely Separate from Patriarchal women, but to also be contemptuous of other women and that this contempt for women is an ideology in itself and is intentional. That Radical Lesbianism requires that Radical Lesbians hate women, and that it is therefore self-hating because Radical Lesbians are women, although they deny this. Radical Lesbians believe that they themselves are not Women because by Woman they mean the Loathsome Patriarchal Woman which they reject. They are not saying they themselves are Men, but that Radical Lesbians are Biologically different from and superior to Other women, for whom Radical Lesbians hold nothing but Contempt. Interestingly, there seems to be a perceived Moral superiority on the part of Radical Lesbians based on a perceived Biological superiority which itself is Dubious and illogical since they did not Earn this (biological) Superiority, but perhaps that is Another discussion. Is this correct?

    This has made me Think. Because as I said Above, the effect of Removing women’s Resources from the Patriarchal equation seems to be the same regardless of Intent. That starving Males and Patriarchy of Women’s energy and lives is a desired Outcome and addresses and materially alters the Root of women’s Oppression at men’s hands. Radical Lesbianism would seem to accomplish this certainly by Separating from Males, and would accomplish this regardless of anything else they may or may not do. In other words, how they treat Other Women is irrelevant to whether their Separatism is Radical or Feminist because Separating from males is in itself inherently Radical and Feminist in practice for the Reasons stated above.

    And now we are in the Uncomfortable position of saying that logically, woman-hatred and an Ideological, Intentional contempt for Women is not necessarily inconsistent with Radical Feminism, or Radical Feminist practice and outcomes. You (Witch Wind) find this Repulsive and Dissonant, which is most certainly is. To this seemingly bizarre logical result, I guess I would say, well, I am not surprised. Because Radical Feminism itself is a response by Colonized women to our Oppression. Radical Feminism is patriarchal in itself for the reason that it is Born of, and Dependent on, Patriarchy. It is a condition of our Oppression. So perhaps it is no surprise at all that it is Misogynistic at its core, or at least that it would seem to function just as well with or without Contempt for Women. Misogyny is either required, or just doesn’t matter that much in Patriarchy or in Radical Feminism it seems. Another stark contrast between that and Women’s Culture, as I mentioned above. What do you Think?

  27. 27 Tracy25 July 4, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    I also do not Know how anyone could Read Here and conclude that Witch Wind thinks that Women can oppress other Women when she has Expressly stated the opposite many times. And where this is not just a random belief but a Central Tenet of Witch Wind’s objection to Radical Lesbianism in the first place, where Radical Lesbians maintain that Heterosexual Women oppress lesbians, but where in reality this is not only Untrue, but Impossible. This Criticism of Witch Wind’s series on Radical Lesbianism is simply without Merit.

  28. 28 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 1:18 am

    @Tracy, I might need more time to think about this. But I guess the position that misogyny doesn’t matter in radical feminism only holds if we don’t view misogyny as inherently morally wrong and unethical. I for one cannot survive emotionally in spaces that are misogynistic, or too much so. And I don’t think it’s safe for any woman to in spaces that are misogynist.

    One logical conclusion of viewing misogyny as irrelevant to radical feminism or even required, is that once we accept misogyny as a given we might as well start abusing each other now and give free reign to misogynistic abuse of women (including BDSM, psychological violence, insults and even murder). I don’t think this is morally defensible. To me liberation and radical feminism has always been far more than separating from men, even though this will always remain a central part of it. Once you’ve gone past leaving men behind, you’ve gone over the fact that they’re all assholes and we have nothing to lose, the rest is about the world we create together as women, and what alternative we offer to each other and ourselves, how we relate to each other, how we influence and spark other women – there has to be a future after leaving men, it isn’t just an end stage, and liberation from male mindbindings continues even after we’ve left men physically. I do think we have a right to live without violence and misogyny, and to strive to live this way, even if under patriarchy there can never be 100% non-colonised responses.

    I also include in radical feminism its potential to spark other women, to speak the truth about men and men’s women, the potential to reach out to all women, and misogyny doesn’t do any of this. It excludes and shames women, and it’s based on lies and reversals. Accepting misogyny as a fatality rather than striving to free ourselves from it in our own lives and minds, just isn’t a possibility for me. It would mean going against women, going against the truth, going against my own life, self-love and integrity even.

    I actually do think radical feminism would survive patriarchy (if that ever happens), in the bonds we created with women, the kind of relations we created together and ethical values we’ve built our networks and groups on, the kind of social structure we strive for. There’s a continuum. Maybe that’s what you call women’s culture but in this case i don’t see the difference between the two.

  29. 29 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 1:24 am

    *I meant to say that I think radical feminism can survive patriarchy since a large part of radical feminism is achieved through bonding with women. And unless men disappear (say male population has reduced itself back to manageable levels and no longer represent an immediate threat to women as a group), being anti-male will always be relevant, especially the fact of considering males as subordinate to the natural law that women be at the centre of life and society, and men at the periphery.

  30. 30 Sargasso Sea July 5, 2014 at 1:46 am

    Interestingly, I have found myself lately using the words “female autonomy” in lieu of any of the -isms because it is actually precise and a state-of-being that all women (who have an interest in doing away with internalized misogyny) should be able to get behind.

  31. 31 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 1:51 am

    Hi Sarsea, would you mind expanding on that a bit?

  32. 32 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 1:54 am

    @tracy again, as i said i have to think about it and there is a point. I do think it depends on how you define radical feminism and why or how we would consider misogyny to be important once we’ve left men.

  33. 33 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 1:59 am

    @sarsea, i guess “female autonomy” has the advantage of being immediately clear to most and is less politically connoted than women’s liberation or radical feminism, because of the backlash that ensued. I stick to the word radical feminism because this is how we started off, but what counts to me is what we put behind it really.

  34. 34 Tracy25 July 5, 2014 at 2:03 am

    If anyone thinks that I was Advocating for Misogyny, or saying that Misogyny is morally defensible, that is Not what I meant at all. I guess here I would point out that Your definition of Radical Feminism includes more than “Getting to the Root of women’s oppression by men” but that is the accepted Definition of it, and the historical Meaning of it. And unless my Proof is wrong, and I invite anyone to address or debunk it, I think I have shown Logically that Radical Feminism does not exclude Misogyny, or can operate independently of it (as we have Traditionally known and Defined it). So maybe Radical Feminism as defined is Not what you are talking about, and you are talking about Something Else. Which is fine. The possibility that there are 2 Different things Happening at Once explains a lot actually. “Sisters” have always destroyed other Sisters for example, Radical Feminism has been rife with this. And even so, in our Politicking, we are naming and effecting the Root, which is primarily the Sexual and Reproductive abuse of females by males. Therefore, Getting out of the way works.

    I find it Interesting, and this has been discussed Elsewhere, that at a certain Point in many women’s Awakening and Activating, many women Leave or are Removed from the Movement. Perhaps the Reason is, they cannot stand the dissonance of the Misogyny of Politicking anymore, and Seek something Else. Or, they become Victims of the misogyny and are kicked out, or destroyed. Kate Millet left, and raises Christmas Trees now. Shulamith Firestone and Valerie Solanas were destroyed by it. How many women has this happened to, and why? I think there is Something there worth Examining, and that we are Touching upon it here. And my feeling is that it goes far Beyond ethics, and is an Essential, Foundational problem. Perhaps Radical Feminist Politicking is Irredeemable, is my first Instinct (and therefore not likely to be Reformed by Ethics or by anything). At any rate, whatever we have Touched upon here, it is good and Necessary to discuss it.

  35. 35 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 2:04 am

    i like the idea of a ‘state of being’ that we should be able to get behind.

  36. 36 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Oh ok thanks for re-explaining your point, i now understand what you mean Tracy. Will reply later.

  37. 37 Sargasso Sea July 5, 2014 at 2:53 am

    You’ve expanded on my comment just fine. 🙂

    Although I will add that in the ‘wider world’ of feminism all of the -isms seem to have lost their ideological nuances in favor of ‘identity’ (which I understand you are making the distinction between) which has only exacerbated the divisions.

    And I did just find myself quite naturally using “female autonomy’ almost without realizing that I was doing it. Along those lines I find myself agreeing with Tracy25 that perhaps radical feminist politicking is beyond ethical reformation – or maybe it is a stop along the way to something else because if the root has been discovered then the question becomes ‘what to do about it’.

    (hope I’m making sense – have a terrible head/chest cold…)

  38. 38 Lisa Jones July 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Ww, hmm ok, well, I look forward to reading the rest of your critique. Still, I gotta say that something feels not quite cool re: the radical lesbian thing. I appreciate that you labor to make a distinction between ideologies and the women who hold them. Seems to me, though, you take issue with a specific group of lesbians who, in your view, are doing lesbianism wrong.

    In my experience, people don’t claim the identity “lesbian” so much as the label “lesbian” as a pejorative is used first by others to tell girls/women who they are, and later girls/women come to terms (or not) with this label and define it for themselves. Women who’ve never had the experience of being pejoratively labeled lesbian by others (and never felt the real-life stigma of this) tend to think that all lesbians have joyously claimed some kind of radical political identity apart from so-called heterosexual women. The reality for many (most? all?) is that lesbianism isn’t politically motivated in the slightest — it’s love/crush/yearning motivated. The reality is that taking ownership of one’s lesbianness is an ongoing journey. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to be lesbian, is there? (Except for pretending to be lesbian when you’re not, perhaps.)

    I’m hoping that the substance of your critique of radical lesbianism is different than the tired old taunts that many lesbians have heard all our lives. Such as: You’re a lesbian because you’re jealous of men. You want to be a man — or, ALMOST a man, but certainly not a woman. You hate yourself and hate your female body. Therefore, you hate other women, too. You say you love women but really you’re the worst kind of misogynist because you can’t even love yourself as a woman.

    This is butch bashing and strawman argument meant to wound and scapegoat lesbians by caricaturing them as not men, not women, not lovers, just pure haters. You’re not going there, I hope.

  39. 39 cherryblossomlife July 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    This is a subject I want to learn more about so thank you for bringing it up Witch Wind.

    I think even Mary Daly, whose writing I adore, mentioned that liberation might mean leaving behind those women behind who were not able to “let go” of men. That some women would hold other women back and those women would have to be regarded as collateral damage.

    That didn’t really make sense to me because I felt if some of us weren’t free, then none of us were free. It had to be all or nothing.

    Lesbian is not synonymous with feminist so it might be asking too much for Radical Lesbians to behave sisterly towards “other” women.

    But by chance, a lot of lesbians have indeed been feminists perhaps because being a lesbian meant that they were better able to see the structures of patriarchy. So being a lesbian may give you the advantage of certain insights. In that sense the connection between lesbianism and radical feminism is important.

    I always felt Daly was including all women whenever she wrote, except for that part I read about some women being left behind. It was in Quintessence, which is one of her later books, so perhaps by then she was getting frustrated and was desperate for us to get on with liberation.

  40. 40 skulldrix July 5, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    @ Lisa

    I feel this post has nothing to do with “butch-bashing” and all to do with how some forms of radical lesbianism having their own internalized misogyny/woman-blaming.

    That’s not saying these women are less than, or not women,but I have witnessed this type of radical lesbian rhetoric before blaming “het” women and labeling other women oppressive, and feeling they are part of some elitist group and all other femme/het women are compliant/choosing their oppression and that colonized women are privileged over them.

    This critique of radical lesbianism is much deserved.It isn’t “butch-batching” or hateful at all. So I don’t think that is where she’s going.

    Also i generally don’t even believe in “butch-bashing” and see butch/femme roles as oppressive and quite unnecessary. Simply because you can’t judge a woman on her appearance or see how oppressed she is by how she dresses alone.

    I hope you can understand what I’m saying.

  41. 41 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    @ skulldrix, thanks for replying.

    @ Lisa, the reason I think it’s important to view aspects of radical lesbianism critically (or its misogynist ideological foundations and the kind of behaviours towards both lesbians and hetcaptive women it condones) is because a lot of it passes as radical feminism, and it has in fact represented quite a large chunk of women’s liberation movement (as in women separating from men). However the fact is that it’s antifeminist and forms part of the identity-politics backlash movement.

  42. 42 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    @ Tracy, if the definition of radical feminism is “getting to the root of women’s oppression by men”, then I think het-bashing and lesbian/ butch identity politics doesn’t quite gets to the root of women’s oppression by men (and fails basic understanding of oppression). It’s based on a false assumption that oppression can be chosen on the basis that liberation from men can be chosen. The logic being, ‘if I could choose to leave men, then it means that if they’re not leaving men it’s because they chose not to’. This is not the case, since when we are oppressed the only real choice we can make is to liberate ourselves. The opposition of liberation isn’t choice to continue to be oppressed, but precisely lack of choice, lack of alternatives. By definition we never choose to be oppressed, it is always enforced through the use of violence and a system of constraints, otherwise it’s not oppressive.

  43. 43 witchwind July 5, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    also, seeing women as oppressors to women or as somehow having male oppressor status to women doesn’t fit with going to the root of our oppression IMO.

    But thanks for clarifying your point, and it does make sense. I do actually think it’s possible to improve on what women have done in previous generations and learn from our mistakes, in order not to repeat them. Since the very beginning of my feminism I have always excluded misogyny from radical feminism, seen both as separate and mutually exclusive – and so do the radical feminists I know and with whom I’ve evolved with. Perhaps we are indeed creating something entirely new. I also don’t see radical feminism as a pure static goal we can achieve here and now and that’s the end of it, but as Sarsea says, a disposition of mind and being in which we strive to eliminate misogyny, male perversions and fragmentation from our lives, to free ourselves from repeated trauma and strive to recreate healthy and sustainable relationships. Where there’s an integrity between thought and action, or again we try to make this possible. Mary Daly has talked about this philosophy of liberation at length in Pure Lust and Outercourse, so I don’t think these notions are entirely foreign to the 70s and 80s movement either even though she must have represented a minority; however I have never met Mary Daly in person, so I wouldn’t be able to say whether there was a stark dissonance between her writing and the way she interacted with women in her life.

  44. 44 witchwind July 6, 2014 at 1:33 am

    I haven’t read the passage you mentioned in Quintessance yet, Cherryblossom (thanks for commenting! so nice to see you here!) but I also had the same impression with her last two books (Amazon Grace and Quintessance, from what I’ve already read) that she was desperate. I could see that in the way she wanted to recreate a new kind of future (archaic future) but it didn’t sound right, it sounded like she wanted to escape except that I only felt the desperation instead of the joy and relief you’d feel by reading about a place out of and beyond patriarchy. It just felt quite bleak.

  45. 45 witchwind July 6, 2014 at 1:37 am

    Also I noticed that in Amazon Grace (I haven’t finished it yet, but it hasn’t encouraged me to read further) she seems more concerned about the destruction of the planet than about women’s liberation or what men do to women.

  46. 46 witchwind July 6, 2014 at 2:50 am

    @tracy, i don’t know whether my last replies have properly addressed what you said. Probably not. It is true that historically, radical feminism has included misogyny and especially been reluctant to question certain aspects of misogyny or even define it as such. It has always been more or less inclusive of the various backlash movements against lesbian feminism and of misogyny in general. While only a tiny minority have criticised identity politics for instance, I haven’t found any written critique yet of radical lesbian ideology or its variations. Some forms of backlash against women’s liberation have been criticised more than others, but the few articles that have addressed the destructiveness of politicking itself, such as the one by Jo Freeman, weren’t very helpful in understanding and disclosing the causes and mechanisms of this destructiveness (the various ideologies or aspects of misogyny underpinning it, which vary from context to context – was it reformism? was it indentity politics? was it competition for male status or male recognition? was it intolerance against women who weren’t as quick in understanding and freeing themselves from men? Was it lack of consideration of each other’s trauma and specific issues and how this affected interaction, expectations etc? there are so, so many obstacles..) and thus treats it as if it were inevitable, as if it were an inherent part of interacting with women within a liberation movement.

    Much of the misogyny in various groups and the way they functioned inevitably comes from where the women were before discovering feminism (which is what led them to feminism in the first place and to depart from organising alongside men): leftist and reformist politicking, civil rights politicking and gay and lesbian politicking. Misogyny is always traced back to men in very direct ways, as in what kind of brainwashing and persecution or forced assimilation the women were subjected to before entering feminism.

    One thing that I’ve read recently in an article by Sandra McNeill in a book called “all the rage”, on the different forms of backlash against lesbian feminism, is that in some groups it was considered normal for radical feminists to shout at each other (in a conflictual way) as a form of debating. She just mentioned this briefly as the focus of the article was something else (criticism of identity politics), but it wasn’t the first time I’d seen something in this vein. Well this isn’t normal at all to me, and I find it quite shocking. My experience is that not only it’s possible to have political debates and spark each other in completely non-aggressive, respectful ways, but it’s actually far more enjoyable and relaxing, and we learn much more from each other and from our respective insights than if we always exchanged in confrontational ways. You can allow your thoughts to expand more, and also it’s just great fun, we spend a lot of time laughing. This is more the kind of experience Mary Daly describes in her books, or maybe I’m just projecting. Also, I’d be burned out and exhausted after two weeks if this was how I practiced radical feminism. There’s no way I could have stood several years of feminism if i hadn’t been careful to protect myself and avoid those groups who showed aggressive or misogynist beliefs/behaviours. To be able to distinguish between misogyny and feminism (ie to never believe that feminism was inherently misogynist) also protected me from dropping out and falling into depression or deep pain and disillusionment.

    I just think it’s up to us or anyone who wants, to take radical feminism further, to the next step (in the ethical sense). To continue the work of naming the reversals and misogyny, to understand women’s oppression in more refined ways, to develop sustainable ways of interacting.

  47. 47 witchwind July 6, 2014 at 2:54 am

    I hope that makes sense

  48. 48 witchwind July 6, 2014 at 3:02 am

    just an additional note wrt “ie to never believe that feminism was inherently misogynist”: what I mean here is that I never believed misogyny belonged to feminism and that it was inevitable or irredeemable: misogyny comes from men, and belongs to them. I always knew as a feminist that whenever a woman showed a sign of misogyny, there was a man behind it. It doesn’t mean that i believe in the existence of a pure, decolonised form of feminism because for this we’d have to no longer be colonised, but whenever I see misogyny in lesbian feminism, I know it doesn’t belong to us and I name it as such. I try to understand its workings so we don’t let it entrap us again.

  49. 49 witchwind July 6, 2014 at 3:03 am

    *that this misogyny was inevitable or irredeemable within the feminist group.

  50. 50 witchwind July 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    hi, will close comments soon, if anyone has anything to add please do.

  51. 51 Deb July 6, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post! You have eloquently stated that which has been in my heart for so long. I was told my lesbian friends of mine that I could not claim RadFem title as I was not a lesbian. I at first searched my soul to see if maybe I was lesbian and then realized that should not make a difference. I hate titles, I despise those who draw the walls around their cause and exclude all others. It stinks of Christianity and all patriarchal religions, corporations, etc etc etc. I want to speak for ALL women; no matter their leanings, their politics, their race, sexuality, etc. Even those women who are right wing Conservative Evangelists still are hurt by the misogynist treatment and they know it! I speak for ALL Women! I have since the 60’s and I am now 62 and will continue to do so! thank you so much! Blessed be and much love!

  52. 52 Tracy25 July 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    It is a very good point that Radical Lesbians misidentify the Root of women’s Oppression by men, if they Eroticize intercourse (calling it Sex, or Hetero-sex instead of Hetero-captivity as you call it) instead of seeing normalized and institutionalized intercourse as sexually and reproductively abusive of females. Or if they think Women can Oppress other women, where Radical Feminists have identified Patriarchal Oppression as primarily Sexual and Reproductive abuse of Females by Males. Yes, this is an excellent point isn’t it? And yet, it doesn’t seem to change anything in the sense that Radical Lesbians’ Separatism from males starves males and patriarchy of their Female energy and Lives. And their Separatism removes them from harm’s way insofar as they can Remove themselves from the presence of men. As I said, their Actions and Ideology seem to be effective at materially altering their Oppressive circumstances under patriarchy anyway. This “knowing” is used as evidence of a Biological or essential difference from other women, because they Instinctively do what all women should do, which is to Stay the Hell Away from men, and not Trust men, and keep to Themselves. If all women Could do exactly what they wanted to do, perhaps we would have a better idea of what Women as a class really Are, and whether they would Avoid men or not. At any rate, Radical Lesbianism works. I do not think it can be denied that it works regardless of anything else, including Political Ideology and Intent. Which is truly fascinating, and gives much food for Thought.

  53. 53 witchwind July 7, 2014 at 11:16 am

    @ TRacy
    yes, it doesn’t change anything to the fact that starving males from female lives starves men from female lives. 😛
    This is undeniable, no matter how a woman (or groups of women) got there or what her profound intents are, whether it’s based on a misogynist ideology or not. You’re absolutely right to insist on this point.

    I guess it clarified more than ever to me that my definition of liberation far extends starving males from female lives and energy. This is only the step #1. Then there’s the “after” and “beyond”: what we do with ourselves once we’ve accomplished this first step and how we participate in forwarding all women’s liberation, how we integrate the liberation of all women in our own personal and collective movement, in our state of being. In other words, how we sustain the step #1 over time, how we make it more than a small group of women escaping male appropriation but expand it both in substance and over time for ourselves and throughout the female population.

    Also as said before, I consider freedom/decolonisation to be inherently tied to the kind of bonds we create together and our capacity to free ourselves from the consequences of decades (in our own lives) and millennia (all the generations of women subjected to patriarchal terror) of totalitarian control, abuse and persecution by men. That is, I don’t think that focusing only on the step one regardless of ideology and intent is helpful for liberating all women, because I think the spreading of women’s liberation is dependent on forces of attraction (not rejection/contempt), speaking the truth about men’s oppression, etc.

    If we don’t put search for the truth, recovery from patriarchal abuse and creation of non-violent, horizontal relationships between each other at the centre of our liberation, we automatically fall back into a life of dissociation, endlessly repeating and reliving our trauma between women, reproducing relationships based on domination and subordination, ridden with boundary violations and being constantly thrown about between extreme withdrawal/rejection and extreme dependency. Men’s control extends far beyond their presence in other words, and therefore so does our liberation and decolonisation.

  54. 54 witchwind July 7, 2014 at 11:30 am

    and I do think it’s important to restate that women’s liberation can NEVER be achieved without starving men from our lives and energy. Separatism from men *is* a step #1, a precondition for the material disintegration of male power over us – and that’s something I’ve always insisted on (or taken for granted as default position in radical feminist / women’s liberation practice and theory). And it’s fair to credit all women who have achieved this to some extent.

    Ok I’m closing comments now. I would have liked to address this discussion more but I’ll do that in future. Thanks for your contributions and see you all in August.


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