Archive for the 'colonisation series' Category

Submitting, capitulating to the oppressor doesn’t mean supporting oppression. Or “She should know better” part three.

Something we come across frequently is the idea that some women internalise and then reproduce or reinforce our own oppression. That we participate more or less out of choice (or ungratefulness towards second wavers) in making ourselves more oppressed, in losing the few rights we have gained, in betraying and failing other women and especially in making life more difficult for lesbians, radical feminists and women’s liberation…

Men are the problem, but not the only problem. Women are also the problem according to this view, and I can’t help but notice that a fair amount of energy is and has been spent reacting to libfem women (liberal feminists) in order to rant about them, mostly about how they throw women under the bus, betray radical lesbian feminists, and seem to be taken for the biggest threat to radical feminism and women’s liberation today.

The first thing I’d like to say is, as radical feminists, I don’t see why we should get so tired or impatient over this group of women more than any other. Yes, libfeminism is very strategically posted at the gate of feminism to prevent women from getting near liberation, and these patriarchal reprisals are those we are most exposed to once we’ve stepped into the feminist movement. But active libfems represent only a small portion of the female population and this “brand” of backlash is only one facet of men’s repression tactics overall.

Mental and physical alienation and destruction of relationships of solidarity between women isn’t specific to liberal feminist enclaves. It’s the normal consequence of being invaded and colonised by men — which is the case everywhere and liberal groups are just one group in which men hold power over women, collectively and individually. The same is true for women attached to right-wing, religious, atheist, conservative or activist men, at whatever age, from whichever country, etc. The workings of colonisation by men and compliance to their rules in a situation of captivity are always the same, except men’s methods differ slightly from one group to another. Similarly, to every breach opened by women to escape men, whether it be lesbianism, spinsterism, feminism, running away from an abusive family or husband, men respond with the specific kind of repression that go with it.

More importantly, no woman or group of women are responsible for men’s organised anti-feminist repression, whether actively or passively (ie lack of resistance). It’s materially, concretely impossible for an oppressed to be the one responsible for her condition of oppressed.

Whichever group of women we’re looking at, women aren’t the problem, or responsible for the situation we’re in. As the oppressed group we can’t reinforce our own oppression, we can’t have both the agency to maintain this oppression and at the same time, because of this oppression be so stripped of our agency as to be incapable of escaping patriarchy or doing much about it. Only the oppressors are in a position to oppress and maintain this oppression, which they do with the use of force. Their violence is unilateral, and violence in a context of oppression is always unilateral.

By definition, oppressors, abusers, slave-masters, tyrants or whatever we call them, enforce their oppression whether we like it or not. They force us into being useful to them. They resort to violence, to methods that destroy our will and turn us against ourselves and other women so to keep us useful and subservient to them. Only chronic violence and long-term captivity (to the owner-father, owner-husband, owner-pimp) can obtain such extreme results of adaptation and submission to abusers. Submission doesn’t ever equal active, willing participation. We participate into our annihilation only as victims.

The more a group behaves submissively to another, and in ways that appear contradictory to its own interests, the higher the level of occupation and repression this group is subjected to: this is a universal law. Not only the level of submission is always proportional to the level of terror, but the kind of submissive, traumatic responses of the oppressed group also directly mirror the various methods of torture used against them.

The level to which women in the left or libfem women are terrified of radical feminism (or of lesbianism) and fearfully obey to men’s demands, reflects the violence with which men infiltrate, invade and destroy the feminist movement from the inside. It reflects their controlling and abusive attitudes towards women, the way they’ll threaten, intimidate, harass and verbally assault women merely because they refused to submit to men’s fabrication of reality (ie demanding us to call men “she”). It’s also an effect of their sexual sadism towards the women they vampirise, as these men are usually supporters and active practitioners of pornographic and prostitutional violence. Liberal women are misdirected by the false hopes that not all men are bad and that equality is the solution, because liberal men constantly lure them into these myths and exploit women’s desires by posturing as allies and mimicking feminist discourse. More often than not these men manage to control women by becoming the boyfriend-owners (or “best friends”) of liberal women, and impose their interests in women’s groups simply by infiltrating her thoughts and actions in the “privacy” of her/his home, and in her bed, where he enforces PIV and sexually humiliates her, while calling this liberating.

Women don’t “let” men in feminism. Forced proximity to abusive men is simply THE central aspect to all women’s condition in patriarchy and so it is that women continue to struggle with it once they step into feminism. It doesn’t disappear because we say it should, especially if the women are already bound to an individual man. And the time it takes to become a separatist, that is to gradually be in a position to reject proximity to men, depends on the opportunities we have to free ourselves from our individual oppressors. Anyway.

Men are the ones who damage the movement, who cause trouble amongst women.

When we talk about women betraying women, this is something organised politically, beyond ourselves. Men are the only agents of this betrayal, they are the ones organising it, they very literally stand between us and the women that are important to us, attempt to control, limit and sabotage our contact in every possible way. The list of ways in which they break our bonds with women — whether within the patriarchal family (mother, aunt, sister, cousin, in-laws etc), within our friend-circle, our political groups or on a larger scale — is endless, literally endless. What’s more, men are in fact the ones who betray us constantly, constantly! Quite contrary to women, who mostly act in good faith, who are expected to be transparent and honest at all times — planned deception is how men proceed by default. The contrast between men and women in this respect is so stark that it takes years to even imagine how men can be so calculating. They’re capable of betraying our trust for decades onwards, stealing everything we have, tricking and manipulating us at every turn and opportunity. The backbones of all their institutions, from marriage to capitalism to the democratic state to medicine to religion (etc) are built on lies, myths and reversals.

So. If we encounter a woman acting in accordance to what men have demanded of her, I don’t see any point in telling her off, being angry with her, or even accusing her of betrayal. I think that’s being abusive to women, unjustly holding them responsible for the effects of men’s actions on them. It’s getting the enemy wrong, hitting on the co-victim instead of the oppressor; we remain caught in men’s endless cycle of hijacking our (real or potential) relationships of solidarity with other women. We may be that person, and certainly have been before, and would have expected empathy rather than scorn. She necessarily has very little control over the abuse that makes her act in this way so to avoid further punishment. The reasons and cause for her actions do not lie in herself but in the men who are taking her mind and body as hostage, one way or another. As feminists, it’s with these real men, and their real control over her we have to deal with first, not with the intellectual debates, or debates about who has the right to call herself radical feminist. The problem isn’t an intellectual one here, but a material problem of violence.

‘She should know better, she had access to radical feminism’, # part two


Why am I writing this series? Because I hear and read, again and again, feminists treating women as if we had the same access to freedom, knowledge and consciousness as men, expecting women to act as knowledgeable and conscious beings when we “tell them so” and being impatient and angry at them when they don’t meet these expectations because they submit to men’s distortions and reversals of feminism.

Expecting women to act as already free when we aren’t, and being angry at them when, in effect, they can’t throw their mindbindings and shackles off when “we tell them so”, is misogynistic. It denies the reality, effects and intent of domestication of women by men.

As said in the previous post, we don’t have the same access to knowledge as men, especially knowledge and consciousness of patriarchy. Men attack our psyche and awareness though intellectual deprivation, by playing tricks on our mind, and do everything in their power to prevent our access to feminism. They destroy, erase feminist theory and replace it with woman-hating propaganda in women’s studies, women’s refuges, lesbian centres, women’s collectives and wherever feminist theory and practice has emerged. Men repulse women from feminism by turning well-known radical, lesbian feminists into foils and repellents through public ridicule, slandering and demonisation, using the words feminist and lesbian as an insult against women.

We know this. If women don’t know it’s because in this condition we can’t, in fact, know better.

However, intellectual deprivation and mindfucks aren’t the only cause for mental colonisation, which is why educating women about patriarchy is rarely enough on its own to break the effects of mindbindings (when it is sufficient, we do notice it: the effects are immediate), and why simply explaining things may give so poor results. That’s because mental colonisation is always rooted in direct violence, and without addressing this violence there’s no way we can address the effects it has on a woman.

Male ideas are backed by action: they are enforced with the use of violence and torture. Women are not merely colonised by ideas but by men.

The following situation might seem familiar: we see a woman infatuated with male woman-hating ideas so we confront her “ideas” with ours, radical feminist. And take this as an ideological opposition, an argument that we hope we will win. We expose the fallacies of her “positions”. We hope to “convince” her with our truth, we hope to get men’s lies out of her head. We think she has “just” been brainwashed and it’s just a case of exposing the facts to her. But she doesn’t seem to understand. We keep repeating until we get angry at her. If she doesn’t listen, she must be stupid, ungrateful and ageist. And she must be really privileged to deny women’s reality in this way, cut from women’s reality.

Except things don’t work this way. This is both an inappropriate reaction and an incorrect understanding of colonisation (on top of lack of empathy for women as oppressed). The meaning and weight of ideas aren’t the same for each woman in this case. Radical feminist ideas have no or little weight against the misogynist ideas here because it isn’t a matter of replacing one with the other in our head, of getting rid of some wrong theory we’ve read in a book once. The misogynist ideas are implanted in our minds with the use of force, through a process of breaking down, violating our physical and mental boundaries — through a process of torture.

Men’s distortions of the truth, lies, reversals and woman-hating propaganda work because they are sustained, expressed in repressive, destructive action by every single man and every single institution: it permeates every aspect of our life. Men don’t only say women are subordinate, women are sluts, intercourse is sexy, feminism is vile, lesbianism is monstrous. They enforce it. They force us to serve them as girls and wives, they forcefully use us as receptacles for their brutal penetrations, they effectively punish us when we resist or try to escape. They make their words match reality and make sure we don’t experience any other reality than this. What makes brainwashing so effective is that it’s accompanied, preceded and followed by sexual and physical violation — that is, brainwashing in a context of torture. Once the violation is total, the mind — the final barrier to any kind of violation — breaks down.

Psychological colonisation is not a mirror outcome of mere psychic attack or proof that we’re so “privileged” as to be deluded about women’s reality, but quite the opposite: it’s a direct manifestation of men’s combined sexual, physical and psychic torture, always all three together. Repeated, prolonged sexual invasion and surrendering of self to a man in a context where it is socially defined as love-making causes the most severe form of psychic invasion and trauma-bonding in the human being. If a woman is mindbound, you can be sure that the violence was total: that physical and sexual invasion are or were equal to the level of psychic abuse.

The more a woman has assimilated the will of her oppressor, the more she is in danger with him and the higher the degree of his violence. Domestication and captivity to our torturers/oppressors combined with societal persecution is what causes mental colonisation, not absence of it. As women we live with our oppressors 24/7, we are forced to share the same bed with them, and they have right of access to our minds and bodies at all times. We are born in men’s prisons which are their homes, brothels or “asylums” and often die in one of their prisons, never having known any form of autonomy. If a minority of women do manage to escape this level of appropriation by men as adults, all women are or have been individually tortured by at least one man in a prolonged and repeated way, and cultural propaganda was enacted in this backdrop of torture and servitude since girlhood. Never, ever assume that a woman hasn’t been tortured. Even the positive effects of escaping husbandry or prostitution (as lesbians or spinsters) may be mediated by men who continue to control our minds and actions in many ways — as psychiatrists, doctors, male “friends”, “dates”, lawyers, teachers, colleagues, brothers, father, male activists, media, etc. Not to forget that the effects of torture on the mind can persist well beyond the worst of torture has ended, and may stay until death so long as they’re not treated.

If a woman rejects feminism, refuses to go further or makes back and forth movements from and to feminism (apparent advancements in lucidity followed by recessions), we should always ask ourselves: which man or men are very concretely acting as a screen between her and her reality, between her and feminism, her and other women. Some men are necessarily behind this chronic blockage, imposing real constraints and limits to her physical and mental liberation. They notice immediately when her behaviour presents a threat to their authority over her, and know how to readjust their strategies accordingly. (More seldomly, in the case the woman is a separatist, this job might be done by women who are themselves colonised, however precedence in torture from men is always a precondition). When our psyche is invaded by male ideas, we are very literally invaded by men, sexually, physically and psychically all at once.

So in the case of mental colonisation, it’s not just with male ideas but with this torture and the oppressor himself we have to deal with: we have to attack them directly, identify these particular men or male institutions in her life, their access to her. We are dealing with victims of torture who are often still exposed to their torturers or still live with them, and/or live with the effects of prolonged torture on the mind — that is, being forced to experience ourselves and our reality through the eyes of our oppressor.

We can’t counter it, make this violence and its effects vanish just by link dumping or explaining the definition of radical feminism when we already have evidence it hasn’t worked. If we do want our words to have some positive effect, we have to take into account the concrete, material situation of the woman, the ways in which men (individually and collectively) methodically destroy her will and consciousness. Our words have to be backed by actions and support which help her get out of this situation, protect herself from the men who persecute her or get her own oppressors out of her mind (and bed). It means taking her side against those of her oppressors, helping her identify their particular strategies and plan her escape without their notice, and never urging her to do things she can’t do, or being angry at her when these men manage to block her progress or regain control.

We have to remember that to each misogynist idea implanted in women, there is its pendant in male violence. The kind of justifications a woman will tell you to men’s predatory behaviour, to prostitution, to sexual violence or any aspect of patriarchy, reveal the kind of violence she herself is or has been subjected to — they cryptically reveal the procedure by which she is being destroyed and broken, the particular ideology her own oppressor(s) uses against her. The link, the cause-to-effect is linear. If she asserts that “anal sex is erotic” you can be almost certain that she herself is being subjected to anal penetration by her male partner, and that she has absorbed his version in this condition of brutal violation. If she says pornography is liberating, chances are that her own boyfriend or a male acquaintance films the sexual humiliations inflicted on her, who tell her this is about liberating her own boundaries. If she shouts at you accusing you of racism because you denounce prostitution (this happens) it’s very likely men frequently use this method against women in her activist surrounding. If she defends her father or husband who is known to be abusive to other women, she’s necessarily one of his primary victims. Etc, etc.

Why doesn’t she leave ? I told her so. She should know better, she has access to radical feminism. She’s just ‘stockholmed’. Part one.

SUB-TITLE: Some limits of consciousness-raising and concrete causes for psychic colonisation: why are we colonised? Do we make a ‘choice’ to ‘take men’s side’? Are we ‘just’ brainwashed into submitting to men? (Warning: lots of scare quotes in this post).

**Thoughts from reading Maria Mies (patriarchy: accumulation on a world scale) and reflexions from a friend’s reading notes on Nicole Claude Mathieu (special thanks – the book is entitled Anatomie politique)**

The reality of our oppression is so erased that we tend to forget that real persecution, captivity and torture are what prevents us from freeing ourselves from men, not just the effects it has in our head: even though breaking us down psychically is one of the intended effects of oppression, our freedom lies very concretely in men no longer being able to assail us, not in gaining more self-confidence for instance. Intentional male violence isn’t just something in our head we need to get rid of by becoming feminist, but outside of ourselves, real, something we have to concretely escape and free ourselves from.

PART ONE (another series!): Women don’t share male beliefs about patriarchy. Our consciousness of patriarchy is limited because men withhold information and destroy our access to reality.

Liberal men in modern Western totalitarian regimes (which they call democracies) say we are ‘socialised’, ‘educated’ into subordination ‘patriarchal values’ because they project their own experience of dominance onto us, and conveniently erase the violence it takes them to beat our heads down under their boots. They define our oppression as something imaginary and symmetrical, as if we were equally influenced as them by ‘ideas’ and ‘culture’, as if our subjugation were a shared cultural lag of past patriarchal times and we happened to be on the wrong side of it, to still be persuaded or brainwashed by its ideology — all it would take would be ‘education’, and if that didn’t work, we’d be really dimwitted. We’d thus play a part in ‘reproducing’ our oppression because we’d believe in it and identified to men (not because we’re forced into it).

I know most radfems are on board with the criticism of this. But anyway. Oppression isn’t symmetrical, unwittingly or even consciously ‘reinforced’ by the oppressed. This is a patriarchal reversal. Men take the moment we are already colonised and captive (to our husbands for instance) to say “see, there’s a coresponsibility, she behaves like a subordinate, she lets the man take a position of power over her life” — omitting the decades of carefully planned assassination of her will the husband had to execute in order to obtain this result.

Even if we look at things purely from the perspective of ideas, they aren’t equally shared by men and women, and nor is there the same power in turning beliefs into reality. When men believe in patriarchal ideology, it becomes true. There’s a coherence and integrity between men’s patriarchal beliefs and their actions: they’re the subjects and agents of them. If they believe women should be treated like rape-targets, they will effectively treat women as a target for rape. If men believe women’s vagina is a hole to be brutally pilloried, they will treat our vaginas as holes for their dicks. If they believe women should treat men like gods, they will force women to treat them as gods. That’s because they have the oppressive power to enforce their misogynistic beliefs and turn them into actions, as an oppressor group.

One thing that’s important in free choice is knowledge. You can make free choices only when they’re properly informed. For instance, you wouldn’t choose to eat something if you knew it would poison you. If someone intentionally gave you some poisoned food while telling you it’s good for your health, it can’t be said you chose to poison yourself. The choice you thought you were making was only in eating healthy food. You were forced to eat poison out of deception.

Knowledge is something that the oppressors reserve for themselves and deprive the oppressed of, to maintain their oppressive system. Men know their domination. They know they’re the dominant class and need to exclude women from it, and know how to treat women and men distinctively to maintain this sexual dominance. It’s very clear to them what constitutes an affront to their masterhood and what doesn’t. While they might not know all the ins and outs of the patriarchal system (and don’t need to), they do know perfectly well where their interests lies — in keeping the subordinates underneath them — and know how to go about doing it. And that’s all they need to know. Access to this knowledge is part of their birth-right, and transmitted to them by other males.

This isn’t so for women. We don’t “share” their ideology and reproduce it in turn, against ourselves, as the intents and workings of patriarchy aren’t clear to us at all: we simply don’t have access to the same information as them. Men prevent us from seeing it by excluding us from their institutions, boards, meetings, parties, peer networks, forums, rituals, clubs where they openly exchange about their dominance, where the important decisions are made, where all the crucial knowledge and skills are transmitted and where they bond over sexual degradation of women in the most overt ways (mostly prostituted women).

Men also typically withhold their true intentions, whether on an individual or systemic level. They lie about their intentions. They lie as they breathe to women. They know how to fake love, romance and interest, to fake humane emotions, to fake legitimacy and erudition, they know how to reverse reality, to turn our minds upside down, to blur our perceptions. They have a very clear vision of what they’re subjecting us to and why exactly they’re doing it, while they methodically destroy our consciousness of their own actions against us, as well as all material, written, historical evidence and memory of their organised crimes. They eliminate, publicly smear and silence those of us who might reveal the truth to women.

It takes us a considerable amount of effort, even years or decades to unpick the lies from the truth, to revert the reversals and uncover the perversions, manipulations, gaslighting and mindfucks, whereas it will take a man a split nano-second to react and know what to do (and why he’s doing it) if a woman toes out of line – it’s a second nature to them, they don’t even have to think about it. We simply don’t have the same right of access to reality – to the consciousness of it.

In this condition it can’t be said that women believe in patriarchy and thus won’t choose to get out of it, but that our consciousness of men’s violence and of our reality has been deliberately disintegrated, fragmented, atrophied; which prevents us from even wanting to get out. Our perceptions have been forcefully twisted and deceived, we are cut from the information we need to see the whole picture, to see men’s sinister conspiracy against women. Men know about the oppression and how to oppress, while we are kept in the dark and cloaked with a false reality. In this condition of forced confusion it can’t be said we consent to anything they subject us to.

The game is rigged for women. Men need to lie, omit the truth, manipulate and deceive us, play tricks on our minds, play a role, create false hopes of love, security and inclusion in order keep us obedient and confused. Such covert psychic warfare saves them a great deal of coercive effort.

Men are devious cowards and ethically crapulent, they will never, ever attack us directly and loyally. Imagine if men came up to women and instead of pretending to be ‘attracted’ to us (and breaking down our boundaries stage by stage in order to extort a first “yes” — to having a drink for instance — which they then use as a pact that seals our permanent violability to them) just said outright “my only intention is to use you as a receptacle for my dick, to rape you as much as I feel fit, to slap you in the face, and then use you as an incubator for my sperm. Penetration is the most barbaric thing you can do to a human being and this is what I want to subject you to. I want to enslave you for the rest of your life, I want you to make you as miserable and broken as a human can be. Now let me attack you.” And then pounced. Well, we’d sure try to run away, or put a fight first. All of a sudden the prince wouldn’t appear so charming. It would complicate men’s business of subordinating us, for sure.

Note: I’ll allow comments at the end of the series.

past musings


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