Archive for the 'Herstory' Category

Radical lesbianism from a radfem perspective. PART I: Radical lesbian views on hetero-bondage and anti-lesbianism

The point of this new series is to break down radical lesbian ideology (contempt for non-lesbian women, obsession with purity) and practices (such as butch / femme roles, general depoliticising of lesbian practices in lesbian-only spaces). My aim here is to break down pervasive and insidious forms of pseudo-feminisms for the benefit of feminist readers, so to prevent women from falling in their traps and to improve on our collective understanding of how feminism is infiltrated by male interests.

*Note 1: I refuse to use the words “lesbophobia” or “homophobia” since they are incorrect and psychologising terms. Phobia is a psychiatric term referring to a mental disorder, and means an irrational fear of something, or to be more precise, projecting a fear of a forgotten trauma (ie having been raped by your uncle as a child) on another object (ie spiders or birds). The psychologisation of phobia is itself questionable though, since it’s a direct consequence of male violence and isn’t a disorder per se. Anyway, anti-lesbianism has nothing to do with phobia: it isn’t a mental condition nor a somatic disorder. It’s an organised male system of repression of women who refuse to submit to compulsory heterosexuality and choose to dedicate their affection, intimacy and lives to women.

**Note 2: I also don’t use the term “heterosexuality” uncritically as it defines women’s oppression from men’s experience of it: as a sexuality. From our perspective and condition, heterosexuality is nothing rape, trauma-bonding and captivity.

***Note 3: radical lesbianism is different from radical lesbian feminism. In the latter there’s feminism, in the former there’s a serious lack of it.

****Note 4: I’m aware that I might get in trouble for writing such a series, but what the heck. I’ve been wanting to criticise the misogyny of radical lesbian fringes for a while, I feel it has to be said.

Radical lesbian views on hetero-bondage and anti-lesbianism

What is radical lesbianism?

Although there appears to be radical feminists who define themselves as radical lesbians and vice-versa and not everyone seems to use to the term in the same way, what I define as radical lesbianism and the way I have seen it most commonly defined is something very specific:

What most defines radical lesbian ideology is its view on hetero-bondage and anti-lesbianism, so I’m going to talk about that first. Radical lesbianism is based on the belief that ‘heterosexual’ women benefit from (compulsory) heterosexuality and thus are part of a “heteronormative” class oppressing lesbians. A concomitant belief is that heterosexual women are traitors who ‘sleep with the enemy’ or ‘collaborate with the enemy’ (men) in order to reap benefits from being with them. Despite various degrees of awareness about male oppression and patriarchy, radical lesbianism emerges from a shared contempt towards non-lesbian women and from a desire to separate themselves from such women or even from the category of woman itself.

I don’t know how it’s possible to logically believe that women can both be oppressed from hetero-bondage (by men) and at the same time be a beneficiary agent of this oppression. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Well it can only make sense if you don’t view PIV/rape and hetero-bondage as the very core of men’s domination over women, and especially if you fail to see this oppression as inherently violent. That is, if you hold a male-centred view of men’s violence against women, and especially, a liberal gay male view on heterosexuality.

The critique of “heteronormativity” comes from gay male criticism of the repression of gays and of the unfair privileges of men who benefit from heterosexuality. This means that gay men define ‘heterosexuality’ as a status that confers certain social benefits and rights which are assumed as normal and are invisible to those men who conform to it, but from which gay men are excluded and causes them to be more or less discriminated, marginalised, bullied, persecuted, etc. However rather than questioning and fighting men’s patriarchal system at the core of compulsory heterosexuality, the vast majority of gay men simply want to have the same access to the benefits and privileges that heterosexual men have, and refuse to be relegated to a second-class status. Gay men’s political agenda thus consists in pushing homosexuality into the norm, by making it more visible and also by assimilating to heterosexual male values and institutions.

Now, it’s obvious that this definition of heterosexuality doesn’t apply to women at all. Gay men define heterosexuality only according to the male experience of heterosexuality, not women’s. The norm in this society is made by and for men, and only the subjects of heterosexuality are men. Heterosexuality can only confer benefits and privileges to men, not to women, and only men can experience this as sexual or as an expression of their sexuality. This so-called sexuality is precisely how men consume and destroy women, and on what men base their global oppressive system on. To men it means sex life, status, economic benefits, paternity rights, ownership and labour extraction, but for women it means being captive to men and subjected to all forms of violence and exploitation. Hetero-bondage can’t be a protective norm or identity for women because this is how men annihilate us.

So we can see that the problem with this gay perspective on “heteronormativity” is that it doesn’t differentiate between men (those who benefit from men’s oppression and organise it) and women (those who are subjected to this oppression). It’s absurd to see women and men as equal agents of compulsory heterosexuality, and thus to see heterocaptive women as oppressive to lesbians and enemy of lesbians. If hetero-bondage is the way in which men subordinate women as a class, it means that women bonded to men have no power whatsoever in men’s treatment of lesbians and neither do we have any control over how men organise and define the different ways in which they sexually abuse and exploit us. No woman is an agent of the oppression and repression of lesbians or of any other women for that matter.

It is true that women can be anti-lesbian or anti-feminist, but it isn’t possible to treat anti-feminist or anti-lesbian women in the same way as we’d treat anti-feminist or anti-lesbian men. On one hand, the anti-lesbianism of men directly relates to their class interests of subordinating all women sexually to men and of punishing insubordinate women; on the other hand, anti-lesbianism and anti-feminism in women are direct expressions of self-hatred and psychological consequences of being oppressed by men.

To Quote Christine Delphy, translated with the help of a friend: here she writes on anti-feminism but it also applies to anti-lesbianism (just replace the word “feminism” by “lesbian feminist”):

It’s normal for women to be anti-feminist: the opposite would be surprising. And gaining consciousness, becoming a feminist isn’t a sudden and brutal revelation; consciousness isn’t acquired all at once and once and for all; it’s a long and never-ending process, what’s more, a painful one, because it’s a constant fight against all the “evidence”: the ideological worldview – and against oneself. The fight against self-hatred is never ended. Therefore there is no clear breaking point between feminist women and “anti-feminist” women, but a continuum of perspectives on a same situation. Since whatever their “opinions” are, women are oppressed. Their anti-feminism – being a) an obstacle to their awareness about their objective interests and b) their oppression directly reflected into their subjectivity – is thus one of the means of maintaining this oppression.

(In: Questions Feministes, “Our Friends and us: the hidden foundations of some pseudo-feminist discourses”, p. 35, 1977).

There’s a reason why men accuse women of anti-lesbianism and of being lesbians’ primary enemy: that’s because it’s a divide and conquer tactic, it’s meant to obscure the real enemies and oppressors – men – and to pit lesbians and lesbian feminists against non lesbian women on the more colonised spectrum. It increases men’s power over women by diminishing female solidarity and feminist vision. Radical lesbian ideology isn’t feminist, because accusing women of being traitors, collaborators or of oppressing lesbians is deep-seated woman-hatred, a reversal and denial of the reality of men’s violence against women.

The idea that women are ‘traitors’ who ‘sleep with the enemy’ comes from a very old, hateful patriarchal lie that all women are vain ‘sluts’ or temptresses who seduce and manipulate men to get what they want, especially men’s wealth. It’s also a slur thrown at adulterous women, as in women who were penetrated by other men than those they were ordained to in marriage, or other men than those chosen by the male group they belong to. Such women would be publicly shamed and punished, similarly to the women, shortly after the second world war, who were shaved and humiliated after being accused of having had affairs with the Germans, which they also interestingly called ‘sleeping with the enemy’.

What it means is that men claim ownership over women in terms of sexual access and punish women for failing to be loyal to their master / slave-owner, that is, of breaching his exclusive right to rape us. The accusation ‘sleeping with the enemy’ is based on a double lie and reversal: first, that the woman is the agent of penetration and responsible for what the man inflicted on her; second, that it’s about sex, when it’s about a man raping a woman; third, that the woman is manipulative, when it is men who continually harass and blackmail women into submitting to intercourse; fourth, that women gain economically from being raped by men, when the reality is that men loot women from tooth to bone, on top of raping and owning us.

So in a similar way, radical lesbians castigate women for sleeping with (being penetrated/raped by) other people (men) than those ordained by radical lesbians (women), instead of empathising with women and seeing that women are victimised by being penetrated and owned by men. It amounts to a similar kind of sexual objectification and blaming of women.

Finally, systematically accusing women of erasing lesbians and of lesbophobia is an intimidation tactic similar to those that accuse women of transphobia and what not.

 

Advertisements

Men’s theft is more literal than we think.

We often underestimate that many women do in fact have some amount of resources of our own. Even though we may be ourselves privately owned by a man, father or pimp and most of our work and production are stolen by men, whether with forced domestic and child raising work in the home, by slaving for husbands or other males of the family to sustain their businesses, the constant extra burdens of unpaid chores required from women in paid jobs or when men steal and exploit the products of our intelligence, findings, inventions, genius and creativity at work – many of us still manage to earn something of our own, even if it may be minimal: we may have some income, and if we’re lucky enough, we may have just enough money to be able to pay a small rent and food for ourselves, or we have some property, furniture of our own, a flat, house, land, or we may have inherited of a bit of money from our grandparents, or have some daddy government benefits, etc. It might be barely just enough to live, or maybe not enough to live with but with a few arrangements over time can eventually made to be bearable. That is, we could potentially find ways to survive on our own, if our captor didn’t kill us after leaving him.

So despite women being the poorest and most destitute, pillaged people of the entire world (obviously, since men’s system of oppression is only directed against women), we are often not completely without any resources at all.

What I realised recently, is how misleading the male-centred view on labour exploitation is on explaining women’s primary source of impoverishment. Women’s first and foremost source of excruciating impoverishment is not, as reformists say, the 20 or 30% pay gap, the “double work shift” of paid job plus unpaid domestic work, the “glass ceiling” (man-ceiling) preventing women from accessing better-paid positions, etc. At best this perspective doesn’t explain anything and is dead circular logic. It takes a peripheral fact disconnected from its context by presenting a microscopic symptom of men’s accumulation of wealth (based on rape, theft and destruction) as a cause as well as consequence. Which is like saying the explosion is what caused the house to explode. The tautology is even worse than that actually, a more apt example would be: the presence of flying debris caused by the explosion is what caused the house to explode and this is at the same time a consequence and symptom of the explosion. Get that level of mindfuck and omission of agent? (where’s the terrorist who put the bomb in the house?)

Even if we adopt the more radical view that men’s global accumulation and monopoly of wealth is primarily achieved from trading women for rape and forced reproduction, and from pillage, genocide and destruction of the elements (one of men’s most lucrative businesses are prostitution, pornography, general trafficking/trade of women for rape and marriage, and derivative “cosmetic” businesses capitalising on the systemic torture and crippling of women), well that still doesn’t completely explain women’s excruciating poverty compared to men in places where women can work and have minimal income. Even these horrors alone aren’t enough to completely quash and disable all owned women economically, whatever their economic status.

That’s because the central cause of women’s impoverishment isn’t impersonal and institutional, but comes from men individually stealing from women in their individual homes. The owner, husband, master, stealing from the woman’s own pocket. I only realised how literal it was quite recently. This is the primary pattern of women’s crippling poverty. It became clear to me after hearing story after story of women being ransacked to the bone by their own husbands or boyfriends, it was typical of every abuse story I’ve heard of – these men systematically stealing their salary, signing credits, debts or mortgages in the woman’s name, binding women in suicidal financial situations or reckless business plans, stealing women’s property, flats or houses by signing it in their (the man’s) name, taking siege of the woman’s flat or house and refusing to move out, spending women’s income on drugs, cars, expensive restaurants, gambling, prostitution or whatever their pet fetish is, controlling access to their bank account, or systematically sabotaging their access to work, income or property in any form, by moving her far away from her work, wrecking her chances to find employment in any way possible, sabotaging her relationship with her employer, or finding ways to cut her benefits for childcare, preventing her from using the money she has for herself, etc, etc. The list is endless.

And what is peculiar about this theft is that men will do it regardless of their own status, income or actual financial needs, regardless of the woman’s status or income – they will steal her money or any potential to make money of her own, leaving her with barely enough to feed herself and the children and to pay for her daily necessities, and very often with not enough to feed herself and the children. The man can be rich and the woman earning a minimum wage, the woman may be earning a good salary and the man unemployed and without any resources of his own, or both having similar income – I have seen every possible combination, nothing stops them.

This is what “Domestic violence” training programs would call “economic violence” (yes lots of quotes here). What they mean euphemistically by “economic violence” is control of the woman’s resources by the “abuser”. This is actually inaccurate because they don’t just control her resources, they literally take it away from her. We call this theft, plain and simple. It’s the systematic pillaging of woman’s personal resources, and her complete financial crippling. The element of control is added to the theft when he demands his victim to justify her slightest spending and has to provide receipts to him for everything she buys. Well, that reminds me of something doesn’t it, isn’t that what the father state requires of women’s organisations, to justify every penny spent on the pocket money he gave them?

This sheds further light on the complete reversal and lie which is the idea that men maintain women financially so that women have to depend economically on them, explaining why they don’t leave. Well, the reality is worse, and men are far more parasitic than I even thought. The reality is that most women are most poor when living with a man, regardless of how rich or poor he may be, or regardless how rich or poor she was before she met him – he will rob her. I’ll always remember the example of Virginia Woolf who was well-off thanks to the success of her writing, yet her husband made her poor by taking away all her money: “By April 1938, the year she published Three Guineas, she was existing only on the pocket money Leonard allowed her– out of her own earnings.” (Cherryblossomlife, “The Life and Death of Virginia Woolf”)

Women can survive economically without men, and most would actually fare better without men from an economic point of view, contrary to what reformist stats say: stats generally state that after a separation or divorce, men’s net income increases, while women’s net income decreases: what it fails to look at is in who’s hands were the resources of the woman during marriage. Despite all the horrors committed to women at work, the fact women are globally impoverished by men in every way, the underpayment, the theft of our labour and creativity, the fact we have to raise kids in terrible conditions with no help at all (etc.), well despite all this, women are far better off economically on their own than with a man, because they avoid the worst kind of theft – of being financially drained by her own husband. Men don’t marry women to support us economically, they marry women to suck the life out of us, to own us, rape and forcibly impregnate us, and this requires plundering everything and anything we may have for ourselves – even our souls.

The reason why the reformist perspective is so misleading, above being a mindfuck, is that whenever we look at men’s oppression of women in male-centred terms, that is in terms of collective exploitation, slavery or institutional oppression, we miss the centre of men’s oppression of women which is the oppression and ownership of one individual man on one individual woman, whether by a husband, father or pimp. It is essentially a one-to-one oppression, of one man against one woman, and the wider institutions are only there to aggressively uphold this one-to-one appropriation. The reason it is configured this way is of course because this is how each man gets to control reproduction and force reproduction on women – in order to have this reproductive control, it is biologically necessary for men to keep raping a woman over time. And to prevent her from escaping she has to be locked in his home, deprived of any autonomy. This is what marriage is all about.

When we see it in these terms, it becomes obvious that the primary source of all women’s horrendous misery and poverty comes from being owned by a man and not from remote, impersonal pay gaps or lack of political representation. Women will always be safer by staying away from the men closest to us; always.

What this led me to think about is what it meant for women to free ourselves individually from each of our own primary oppressor (husband, father, boyfriend, pimp). That is, if we survived the hardest part, which is getting away from him without being maimed or killed by him in retaliation and managed to disappear from his reach after our flight, then I think the hardest part of liberation has been overcome. The rest is decolonising progressively from embedded maleness, and surviving in a hostile, male-driven, genocidal world. Surviving on our own in a male economy and confronting our pain and wounds might be harsh and even excruciating but it’s nothing in comparison to living under the constant reign of terror of a husband, father or pimp. It’s nothing in comparison to being imprisoned by our torturer 24/7. The biggest threat that we face in our lives is of being owned by a man or pimp, and being raped and killed by him or any male occupants. If we manage to escape this fate, anything else is violence of a lesser degree. It left me wondering what would really happen if all women started to leave men at the same time. What would men do? Would they start an open war against all women? Or would they target individually each woman that left them? Would everything collapse? Is the leap easier than we think it is, given that many women are persuaded that they’re better off with men despite all evidence of the contrary?

On writing and comments

I didn’t take the time to explain why I closed comments at the time I did. This is what I’m going to do now, as I now have a bit more time at hand.

The irony is that what made me take my decision to close comments isn’t directly because of the trolling, threats and MRA hits although it was an absolutely terrifying moment and I almost did close comments as a result; but because comments were beginning to work. I closed comments at a time where conversations were actually becoming very interesting, and the last few ones were the most interesting discussions ever held on this blog so far. Once the threats abated and the trolls decided I wasn’t their pet target any more, I expected to feel relieved and better, but I didn’t. There’s something inherently wrong with modding.

I love writing, and I love discussing with radical feminists. In fact there are few things I like more than being with and discussing with radical feminists, and if I didn’t have to find money to live, I would surely spend most of my time doing this. It’s maybe what brings me most joy in life.

Comments aren’t exactly like discussing with radical feminists in real life. They were making me feel physically and mentally sick. I wanted to run far, far away from modding and never come back to it again. I couldn’t think clearly, all these responses from so many different women were making my head spin and I didn’t know what my own thoughts were any more. I was starting to lose the desire to write, to feel that there wasn’t any point to it. It was intoxicating my entire life and thoughts, I was constantly worrying about the comments, not to mention behind the scenes tensions between this woman or that woman. And the obsessive checking, not knowing when the next message will be, or who it will be from. It might be from a woman you know, but maybe it will be form a complete stranger.

Modding is far too extreme and stressful. In no other situation in life am I to expect at any time of the day or night that someone, anyone might contact me in person, for which I have to check regularly in order to publish that message. Worrying about whether I want this or that message to be published or not. The message in itself might be good, but if you don’t know the commenter it’s stressful not to know whether she’s genuine or not. Or you see there’s a reading comprehension failure, but you don’t want to disappoint or hurt the commenter by trashing the comment because you know her. It is very unlike any form of internet communication such as emails or forums, where you may be in contact with several people but you expect a message only when you’ve sent one to them or because they said they’d write to you, and if you know the person you know more or less her speed of reply, so you’re not going to check every hour of the day to see if she’s sent you a message. And you can sense what they’re going to write about according to the conversation. You know more or what to expect, and who will get in touch with you.

No other writers but bloggers have to deal with such a high amount and scale, scope of constant intrusion, feedback and interaction. I find it insane. I only just realised this recently, as comments before used to be low enough so not to intrude in my life, but this… It’s a full-time job, and worse. I so understand why FCM decided to cut comments to three days a week for a while before she closed her blog, but even three days a week would be unbearable to me.

Paper-published writers spend a considerable amount of time writing on their own. The period before their work is published is usually fairly long, a time during which they choose who gets to read their work for feedback and with whom they want to discuss it. It may be their colleagues, friends, trusted people, etc. And once their work is published, well most writers don’t get a constant flow of letters and emails every single day in their mailboxes to which they have to reply, or republish. Their interaction with the public will be mostly through limited, specific and chosen, agreed-upon times such as gatherings, seminars, talks, conferences, workshops, inerviews etc. There will be a beginning and an end to it.

I’m not saying this is necessarily the best model but I find it so much healthier to have public interaction limited to one-time events, meetings or gatherings, maybe once a month or several times a year (or whatever is suitable), and to otherwise choose the women with whom I want to discuss my work, or thoughts. When I discuss my work with a woman, or discuss the topic of what I’m writing about, I choose her because she’s the appropriate person at this this particular moment. I don’t necessarily want to hear all women’s opinion about it right now, but only hers. Because I value her opinion, first, but also because I know her enough to be able to provide me with the kind of insight I need at this time. Because I know she’ll understand me in the way I need to be understood just now. Because I’m currently seeking one kind of feedback and she’s the person for that.

I found that having too many different unsolicited reactions at the same time made me lose focus, it dispersed my mind to the extent that I lost the meaning of things, even if each contribution, viewed separately, was immensely insightful and valuable. When women comment on my space I have to personally approve each one of their messages, which means somehow that I have to integrate their messages and voice as my own, by agreeing it to be coherent with the political and ethical stance of my blog; this absorption of so many comments at once is what caused the dispersion of my mind and why I had the impression of having 15 different voices jabbering in my head, which really was on the verge of explosion.

By publishing women’s messages on a radfem-only space, I also become responsible for endorsing what other women have said on my blog and for judging this to be radical feminist. The responsibility of judging, approving and publishing what other women say is a heavy responsibility which I find too burdensome, and this is not what I write for. It easily creates tensions and rebuttals about whether or not I should have published or trashed this or that comment. Concessions may be contested, and rightly so, but it’s all just a headache. Sometimes it’s painful even to deal with good comments when I would have enjoyed to only discuss one point further with this or that woman, yet deleting the other radfem comments and allowing only a one-to-one discussion would have been completely inappropriate given the context of semi-public discussion. And it’s painful because just the thought of wanting to discuss with one woman over another on this specific topic makes me feel like I’m a terrible person, yet it’s a perfectly normal thing to do in real life. Besides, unlike normal conversations or meetings, the other woman is dependent on the blogger/modder’s approval for having her message heard and seen, she has to use me as a vehicle to have her message expressed to others. I find that a very unbalanced and unequal form of interaction.

Private discussions with radfems are more equal and go more in depth since privacy allows for far more freedom to go to the end of our thoughts and follow each lead after the other. With public discussions we are always more or less self-contained because of fear of what others will think, fear of reprisals from MRAs, fear of comments not being approved, impossibility to mention relevant anecdotes or thoughts since they might reveal personal information that could compromise anonymity.

Finally, I realise I much prefer writing to an invisible audience rather than a regular, visible one, as I realised that I was increasingly censoring my thoughts or writing according to what I imagined commenters would think of it – fearing their judgment in other words, fearing to be misunderstood, and always dreading those threats if I went too far. I don’t think this fear can be avoided actually, it’s inherent to the comment format, to the possibility of anyone and everyone being able to comment on your writing at any time. Not having to confront myself with people’s unsolicited reactions to what I say is really liberating.

Now at this point I really want to stress that nothing here has anything to do with what a published commenter might have said or done personally, and really the contributions and insights have meant a lot to me in many ways. My thoughts here are about the inherent problems with modding and not with radfem discussions per se. There are few exceptions, but on the whole, spinning conversations is very much hindered by the blog modding format – to which we add the constant fear of receiving threatening comments and having to bear alone the responsibility of reading and deleting the threats and trolls in order to maintain a safe space for other women (which makes the space (moderately) safe for everyone except the modder).

I never had this impression as I was reading comments as an outsider, but being an insider it’s an entirely different story, and it’s interesting to see how it works. However even as an outsider I did experience the stress of obsessive checking and replying, the anxious waiting for my comment to be approved or for new comments to show up. Sometimes it would be excruciatingly frustrating, and it’s very dissociative too, as I could stay for hours in front of my screen without feeling sleepiness or tiredness when I was tired and sleepy. Separation is what causes this – separation in time and space between the emitter and transmitter, deferred sending and receiving. The screen deprives us from the sensual experience of interaction – there is a constant delay or lapse which doesn’t exist in instant / present communication, where each interaction phrase, gesture, tone of voice, touch is communicated and sensed immediately. Interacting with a screen is sense-numbing anyway. Internet and computer communication is probably the bleakest form of human interaction from a sensory point of view, despite all the advantages it has in terms of easily accessible information and fast communication.

Now that I’ve closed comments I feel immensely relieved, freed, and my clarity of mind and desire to write reappeared almost as soon as I closed comments, which is quite funny. Or rather makes perfect sense. I’ve been thinking about the effects of blogging and of the internet on radical feminist writing for a long time and these are certainly my most informed thoughts for now. That short experience in modding was surely a learning experience and I’m glad it allowed me to better understand how it affects writing.

All things considered, I’ve decided for now to try leaving comments open on the most recent article three days a month, every 1st, 2d and 3rd of each month; because these days are easy to remember. I hope I’ll remember them myself! If this is still too much to deal with, I’ll just reduce that to several times a year.

Sisterhood, sisterhood… Thoughts on identity and what it does to radical feminism.

Last week, through a conversation with a friend I finally came to understand why identity making made me feel uneasy, which led me to think about the definition of identity and why it’s an embodiment of foreground male presence as opposed to female being (I’m using Mary Daly’s notion of male foreground / female background).

I’m not talking about identity politics here, which may be related but is more blatantly liberal and generally comes from the queer / intersectional fringes and has really nothing to do with radical feminism. It’s something else. I was thinking about this more than a year ago, then left it as it was, and these thoughts sprung back again in the same state the other day. I knew something was wrong somewhere but I couldn’t tell how exactly, put words on it. What I felt was a ‘something missing’ which left a dissonant aftertaste in my tongue, as if there lacked some deep understanding. Something appeared superficial. If there was a problem in the understanding of men’s oppression such as with social constructionism, or problems in the way they were acting that contradicted their sayings, I had already broken that down and there was something else still.

I’m racking my brain, thinking about it: superficial, that’s fake. Sisterhood. Why do I not like the way it’s used? Something in there is fabricating an idea of a happy sisterhood that’s too exaggerated to be true. It has a groupie feel to it, that horrible feeling I had in school with girl cliques you were supposed to want to be friends with, and many of us pretended to stick together only because being alone was too dangerous, it meant you would be scapegoated and that was akin to death, so you had to obey to whatever conventions in order to show your belonging to this group, to give the impression to yourself and others you weren’t alone. I always found group assimilation alienating as it would leave me feeling more isolated than when I was alone. I never managed to fit in any of these groups.

In a similar way, I find alienating the repetitive use of ‘sisterhood’ and ‘sisters’ in contexts that don’t relate to the reality of an association or trusted group of friends. You’re invited to feel part of or witness a wonderful community in which all women are happy together dancing, laughing and singing and holding hands or whatever… but you know this isn’t true, simply because it’s not happening as you read / listen – at best you don’t have any connection to the women writing, reading, commenting, publishing, talking etc because you don’t know them – or at worst you’ve heard about behind-the-scenes stuff which are too stressful to think about. In either case, you’re invited to share an experience that doesn’t exist or contrasts sharply with reality.

I presume sisterhood loosely means a large or small group or community of women bound together in a solid and positive way. I do know the existence of groups but I have no interest in mentioning them except if it’s relevant to what I’m writing. So it isn’t something that happens or appears just because you use the word. It isn’t like the word “I apologise” which is also an action and so when you say it you’re making it happen. In this case sisterhood – or derivatives referring to false images of a big loving community, words and names of radical feminists – are used as rallying symbols for following or inclusion, instead of for the meaning they convey in a relevant context.

This is what advertising companies do. This is what male ideologues do, what religious males do. Not that women are any of them, but some of the strategies bear a resemblance as we’re made to believe that diffusing feminism is about recruitment, communication and convincing. But persuasion and recruitment are only necessary for men since their institutions are based on myths and lies. Feminism is the opposite: either the truth of men’s violence is blocked out or either you see it – because it’s always there right in front of our nose. The method of radical feminism is peeling off the veil that men covered our eyes with, it’s consciousness-raising, connecting the dots outside and inside, it is Seeing and Feeling.

Just yesterday a woman told me she wouldn’t attend a woman-only feminist event because it was “politically biased” (in feminism) and she didn’t want to feel tricked or forced into an “ideology”. Well, I found that laughable because she ignores that everything else she goes to which is supposedly neutral is a manifestation of patriarchal ideology, and the only thought and movement that isn’t ideological is feminism. I reminded her that feminism, unlike an ideology, isn’t based in reversals and myth-making as a tool of control of one group over another: it’s naming reality, saying the truth of what men do to us and there aren’t 3,000 ways of naming it, the fact men’s violence exists isn’t debatable. It isn’t about recruiting and brainwashing an army to take power, wage war, occupy or colonise. To this she replied, “well all ideologies strive to tell the truth and give their own interpretation of reality, religions do that, political parties do that, and so does feminism”.

Oh dear. No, male institutions don’t ever strive to tell the truth, this is female projection and blindness here. I gave up the conversation at this point, as she was too far away into male liberalism to understand a word I said.

The point being, while feminism isn’t an ideology, it’s sometimes treated as such. My friend pointed out references to rituals. Rituals! Yes that makes sense, it’s like religion. It’s about upholding an artificial reality through regular gestures, pomp or actions, and are explicitly or implicitly mandatory to show your belonging to a male group or institution (religious, legal, military, other).

Ah. Now I understand. Identities may be a form of ritual – performance, role-playing. Just like rituals, you have to repetitively execute a certain number of actions or use a certain number of symbols to keep up those roles, to uphold the myth, to prove your belonging to the fictional group, collective or nation. This is male identity-making. Actions are retrieved from their experience, the goal is separate from the process of doing the action in itself. You’re deprived of the sensory experience, which is why it makes you feel empty and repulsed by it. That is you’re no longer doing something regularly because it feels good and it sustains you but because you have to do it in order to be part of the group at this particular time. And if you don’t comply, you risk being excluded, of being called unsisterly, you’re punished in some way or another, it may be subtle enough so you don’t realise it but feel guilty. It really is about control.

I think this is what we mean when we criticise the use of radical feminism as an identity: the actions, symbols, words and names are emptied of their meaning and context and used in ritualistic ways to uphold a fiction of group-belonging, for power over or to show conformity to a group because you need to feel included, so you become emotionally attached to it and it’s actually what prevents you from continuing to understand things on a deeper level. Identity = ritual = fiction = trauma-bonding to false inclusion = tool of control. Hence why it’s so stressful to read / listen, and my impression of shallowness.

Blogging and internet makes this role-playing easier I suppose, as you can just create an alias and invent a whole persona, the truth is easier to hide. But dynamics are the same online as well as in real life.

I don’t think the identity-making is always done deliberately or maliciously. Often it is, as a manipulation tactic to gain control, but sometimes it just flows from our desperate need to feel part of a group, because radical feminism may have been the first thing that broke our isolation, it may have been the first thing that gave sense to our suffering. I think this is very sad. We have all terribly suffered from being abandoned, scapegoated, excluded, and we want these women to be the happy family we never had. We cling to women very quickly and place all our hopes and dreams of a free sisterly community in them. Except that it doesn’t work this way. It’s tempting to make an identity out of radical feminism because our female culture and sense of being in this world is constantly erased and we want to recreate a sense of community and belongingness very fast because we’re desperate, so we recreate one before it exists, in ritualistic ways. These idealistic images of sisterhood are tempting but most often they’re not true.

That’s it, it’s lovebombing – a word that Delphyne used some time ago. Don’t be fooled by love-bombing, because it may hide abuse, control or manipulation. Experience has taught me that in patriarchy it’s dangerous to leap into a group or a relation without taking a very long time to build trust, without giving it the test of time.

In retrospect to the 85,000, reformism and other things

When men view our blogs in such large numbers, it’s a threat. They’re not just looking at it, they view it with the intent of harming radical feminists and women in general. They do it to collect information so they know what next to do to prevent women from going there. They batter radfem work in public for all women to see and show the result of their verbal and written battering as an example of what will await women if they do, think or say the same. They write nasty and threatening comments, that in order to trash, I have to read at least a few words of. Even though it doesn’t hurt my feelings, they are still harmful and inevitably affect my thoughts.

85,000, that’s the maximum number of views I had in one day a couple of weeks ago when the liberals and MRAs circulated my PIV blogpost for punishment. Unlike a normal blogger, attracting 85,000 hits isn’t something I want to celebrate. It’s threatening: you know they’re after you, it only means you’ve hit men’s radar and you have no idea what they plan to do. Will they attempt to hack into my blog? Will they try to find info about me? The kinds of thought this leads me to is 85,000 men going after me in real life. Probably a bit less if you discount the women. If that happened, how on earth could I hide from tens of thousands of men?

Receiving so many comments denying what I said one after the other reinforces my sense of isolation, of outlandishness, of being the only one who knows. It makes me doubt the reality of my perceptions, it makes me waver, it shakes my foundations for a bit. I start questioning what I said. If so many people assert this with such confidence and if it contrasts so starkly with my perceptions, how can my assumptions be real? The wavering doesn’t last for long thankfully, I regain my senses quite quickly, sometimes more so than others. Writing, talking about it to friends and receiving radfems comments helps a lot. It’s the only thing that ever helps actually.

All this is gaslighting and bullying, men’s lies are meant to sound convincing. They convince with the use of force, ordering me to comply to their view by using an authoritarian, terrorising tone. ‘How dare you see otherwise. You’re crazy. You’re a bully. Etc.’ Which is why it works so well to instil self-doubt because it’s a mindfuck, it’s thought-blocking, it’s also an assault and it creates fear and willingness to appease to avoid further assaults. Brainwashing works through a mix of mind assaults, terror and constant repetition of a same message until it’s hammered into our brain, which is psychological violence. 85,000 views and hundreds of trolling comments is in effect a blitzkrieg brainwashing attack by men and male-colonised women. Hundreds of men and their pawns attempting to reprogram the minds of deviant female bloggers, women who don’t comply and who break through men’s myths and lies.

It’s interesting that Cathy Brennan’s response to the whole thing led a commenter, Tracy, to comment about what it meant on reformism: I hadn’t framed it in that way (see discussion here, here and here). I’ve been thinking about it for a while but haven’t had the time to comment on it properly so I’ll continue my thoughts in this post. Tracy defined CB’s post as reformist to the extent that CB doesn’t name the agent, that is why men isolating us from one another is so dangerous, why it’s so important to huddle together in this circumstance [because men are waiting in line to rape and kill us]. CB asks us to take safety measures against a threat -men- that she won’t name, and at the same time treats men as an audience to appease, as if they would take note and change their behaviour accordingly. Tracy named that gaslighting because it’s acting as if two opposites (truth vs. omission/lie; threat vs. safety) were the same. Of course it’s not CB’s fault because she herself is victim of it.

So reformism defines as gaslighting because it acknowledges a threat -violence- and the need for it to stop, yet it never names the threat -men- and then requires us to RELY on that threat as a source of help. It requires us to resort to men as sensible beings who would stop being violent if told so, which causes the opposite of the aspired safety: renewed vulnerability to men’s violence. So it IS a mindfuck: we should see there’s a threat, but treat it as if it weren’t, then go back in harm’s way to try to plead with our rapists and murderers instead of getting AWAY from them. Resorting to men – policemen, lawmen, statesmen, whatevermen, to protect us from… men! It always leads to more abuse, not less. We are supposed to seek safety from abusers, and truth from lies. This is very deliberate, the very point is to prevent us from seeking safety where safety is, and from identifying men for what they are, so we never get away from men’s dominance.

Gaslighting is an abuse tactic of individual abusers against individual women. But all male abuse patterns work on the structural level, too. If we apply gaslighting to reformism – which men institute globally as a mode for liberation through state policies, daddy-funded NGOs, the UN, male-led activism etc – well that gives us, as Tracy mentioned, a campaign of gaslighting women at a global scale: therefore reformism is worldwide psychological abuse of women. The repetitive, circular nature of reformism, the erasure of the radfem alternative to reformism (liberation / separatism), the fact it’s always planned from within patriarchal institutions (or with their approval) and applied in ways that assault women, also defines it as brainwashing of women on a global scale: it’s the fabrication and implantation of a false reality into women’s minds on a mass scale – as with all other false feminisms.

This led me to the following insight: thinking about reformism as abuse by men on a collective level, it struck me that the cycles of abuse from relapse to outbursts of more explicit violence applied to the system too. Male abusers of women, especially husbands and boyfriends, never or rarely maintain a constant level of violence over time. There are ups and downs, there are phases, and these phases serve a purpose. After a certain time of ongoing overt violence, women inevitably begin to get a wake-up call. They reach a limit, I have to go now or I will die, I have nothing more to lose. This is a breaking point where the spell of fear or trauma-bonding is broken, where she has the potential to free herself. When men sense that this wake-up call is happening, that women are no longer responding with the usual terror and preparing to escape, they might increase with violent repression to put her back in line, OR they might shift tactic altogether and pretend to be nice for a while to revive her hopes that he will change, that he has finally stopped being violent. He may buy some flowers, say “romantic” things that he stopped saying a long time ago, say he’s sorry, allow her some leeway that he didn’t before, and keep a low profile for a little while.

The fact is that during this relapse phase he never really stops being violent, but the contrast is stark enough in comparison to the previous one to give the illusion to his victim that the violence has stopped, especially if she has been accustomed to much worse for a long time. This phase is crucial in that it enables the abuser to restructure his dominance over her, to reinstall her trauma-bonding and emotional dependence to him, her belief that he has changed for the better, to make sure she won’t escape again. He needs to regain his psychological hold over her. And once this control has been re-secured, he will then rise the bar of violence again progressively and insidiously enough that it won’t alarm her.

On a structural, global level, this is what reformism is about. It’s a phase of relapse between two phases of more overt violence and genocide of women. It’s men collectively pretending to have changed for the better by agreeing to superficial transformations of their system of domination – which contrast enough with the previous phase to give an illusion of a halt and freedom, even though the violence hasn’t stopped. It’s a crisis response to movements of liberation of women, to reinstall women’s collective trauma-bonding and emotional dependency to men. Indeed, it seems that women have never been so trauma-bonded to men collectively now than ever before we can remember.

If you look at the shifts more closely though, none of them pertain to an actual decrease of men’s violence against women – number of rapes, abuse by husbands, etc. The levels have probably never changed, and the power structures have remained completely unchanged too. What has changed is the number of token women in the patriarchal institution (Mary Daly calls this strategy “assimilationism”) and the number of women with token economic and civil rights (to have a bank account, to be salaried exploited, to vote, etc). Have these shifts freed women collectively from men? Nope, not in the slightest.

Historically, it fits, at least from a western-centric perspective, but as far as I can see, western treatment of women and genocide tactics in occupied territories mirrors and complements its own internal genocide of women. We have, from the 12th or 13th century up until the 19th century, a very long period of overt genocide of women by western men across the globe. It has never really stopped of course but at the time there was no illusion that male institutions and colonialists were and could be helpful to women. In Western countries, this wave of genocide was itself a reaction by the religious states to women fleeing men en masse and taking more and more importance in society to the extent that they threatened the monopoly of the states’ power. So what ensued was mass, organised slaughter of women to physically prevent them from gaining autonomy, and men’s global colonisation, resource pillage and genocide served to increase their institutional caste power over all women and reinforce the global rapeability of women with worldwide trafficking in women for prostitution.

What happened from the early 19th century onwards, is a vast and global movement of liberation and decolonisation of women from men in western and colonised countries alike, which continued in major ways until the end of the 20th century, and continues today too. But what has happened this time is that men caught women in the traps of assimilation to them and to their own anti-classist and anti-racist movements: into the trap of reforming men’s system. Men indeed shifted their institutions, their outside appearance and discourse to give the illusion of benevolence to women and shared interests in fighting ‘sexism’. Colonialists, capitalists, pornographers, pimps: they all sold their invasion, raping and killing of women as sexual liberation.

Time and again, woman liberationists in every place of the globe were lured back into male institutional control by being offered money and offices or positions by states and institutions such as the UN, European Union and their derivatives, in exchange of complying to male interventionism and control, and of focusing only on useless, exhausting legal change and tokenism, or ‘gender mainstreaming’ or whatever shit they invent. Women being sorely deprived of money and land, it wasn’t difficult to hurdle them back in with this carrot, or to use this as a way to divide and destroy the integrity of groups between those who refused to take the money and those who believed it would work despite the compromise to their autonomy. The irony today is that there are many woman-only so-called autonomous movements in western as well as non-western countries who’ve identified this male state / institutional takeover of feminism and refuse to have anything to do with them, but on the other hand are completely colonised by the male academic takeover of feminism with all this queer, postmodern, pro-trans and pro-prostitution bullshit. It really has been a takeover on all fronts.

Anyway, so what this presages, is that if we see reformism as an intermittent relapse phase, well that doesn’t look very good does it, it certainly means that there will be a progressive resurgence of overt violence soon. And I think it’s already happening really. It’s not my type to cast doom though, and the good news is that patriarchy fundamentally doesn’t change, so I really don’t think it’s cause for more alarm than usual. All times are good to free ourselves from men. We should do it now.

women’s supersensory powers, continued

The main point in the previous post was to say that if we look at the truth on biology from a radical feminist perspective, it doesn’t just lead to conclusions on male nature but also inevitably to certain conclusions on female nature, which is we are doted with higher cognitive and sensory capacities than men, due in part to their cerebral asymmetry and smaller corpus callosum. Looking at female brain attributes is completely different from saying “gender is hardwired” since we know that women are not naturally subordinate to men and we are not explaining any form of female behaviour here but cognitive and sensory potential. What it means is that compared to men, women simply seem to have a fully functioning brain (or far better functioning than men at least). This fits to the fact that women are genetically the default human, and men a maled mutation from women. The mutation process clearly generates a deteriorated version of the original – the question is whether this mutation is accidental or actually serves the purpose of maximising the reproduction of male species by turning their brains and bodies into potential rape-machines, which is certainly the effect of male attributes on the brain and body.

When comparing male and female cognitive / sensory powers, I find the example of male shamans very interesting. In most – if not all – current traditional societies where shamanism is still practised, males monopolise this function and pass it only to their son or the next generation male. Typically, all male shamans across the world have to resort to drugs in order to “see” and thus perform their “healing” function as shaman (imitate female healing powers). These drugs may be anything from tobacco, hallucinogenic mushrooms or other products, alcohol or also putting themselves in extreme and painful physical conditions in the aim of achieving a “second” state.

What is interesting is to see that the drug-taking is primarily a male practice. Female seers, by contrast, do not traditionally need or take such drugs. I’m certain that men need these external drugs to access parts of their brain that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access, because of their cerebral deficiency. Besides drugs always have a physical cost, they aren’t without negative consequences to the body and brain, and men often have almost as little regard to their own bodies as they have for the external world. I have always deeply distrusted drugs, saw it as a tool of control and dislike the way it shifts your consciousness in an artificial and coercive way, that makes it unsafe and unpredictable. I don’t see the need for an external product when we can simply learn to connect ourselves naturally, which is a far healthier way of doing it because it’s something that comes from you, in your own time.

If we take a look at Ayahuasca, which is a very hallucinogenic beverage male shamans from the Amazon drink; as far as I can remember, in order for ayahuasca to have its desired effects, the bark of the tree or plant has to be brewed and stripped in a very specific and precise way with other ingredients, it takes a number of hours to prepare and without this preparation the ayahuasca will not have its hallucinogenic effect. I learnt this some time ago in a detailed documentary on its fabrication, and the commenter (a British white male) was flabbergasted at the precision of the recipe, and wondered how they’d find about it amongst the million other plants and ways of preparing them for medication. It’s not something you can improvise at all and there’s no way they would have come across it just by stumbling into the plant and randomly tasting its different parts to see what it does, it would probably be indigestible. He asked some of the people there and they replied that the plants told them, something in this vein. The commenter didn’t take it seriously of course.

But here’s the thing, if men aren’t as endowed with seeing as women are and aren’t naturally connected to the elements it seems very unlikely to me that men themselves discovered the powers of that specific plant and how exactly to prepare it in the first place. To do that without the aid of ayahuasca you would have to be already connected to plants or that plant in particular would have to tell you herself, or other spirits or beings around you. And to do that you would have to be a woman, I’m sure.

In my opinion, here’s the background or truth of the story: either men coerced or tricked women into giving them the recipe for the potion, or women felt so sorry for men’s pitiable, unconnected state that they gave men this potion in the hope that would understand what it feels like to be connected. Although it’s more likely that men manipulated and implored women to give them such a thing, and once they got hold over it, they eliminated the female shamans and oracles and put themselves in stead, using this potion to give the illusion of female powers and acquire legitimacy. In other words, the same genocidal process as everywhere, where men slaughtered the priestesses, witches, oracles, seers, herbalists and other gifted women and replaced them with fraudulent male professionals.

The interesting thing is that they managed to get hold of these potions, remedies and shamanic functions everywhere in the world, in Africa, America, Asia and Europe, which suggests that wherever men started doing it, they reached a critical number and it spread to all other human males on the globe. That is, if we follow the holographic principle – for nothing else explains the universality and synchronism of patriarchal progression across the world.

I know as a matter of fact that some women do have the capacity to communicate with plants and trees and living beings in different ways, they ask the plant what kind of healing powers she has and the plant may reply, if she wants to.

 

on the importance of thinking, transformation and metaphysics of liberation.

Or where has thinking gone? Why are so few feminists interested in THINKING (and writing those thoughts down for other women to read)? It’s interesting to notice that while women are made to feel no longer qualified enough to listen to other women’s suffering, to relate it to our own, to support each other and see what we can do for ourselves, at the same time discussions about how men’s violence affects us has been mostly wiped out of feminism as a regular or central practice.

Feminism has indeed become much reduced to tedious, boring organisational meetings, institutional work or media campaigning, hierarchical and professionalised, father-state-controlled-and-paid women’s aid, conferences or lecturing, planning one action after the other up until exhaustion. All have in common that there is very little profound thinking, horizontal talking about our lives and furthering radical feminist thought, because it’s either focused on changing men in male-defined, energy-sucking ways, based on male top-down talk modes or patronizing “victim-helping” from a supposed “non-victim” or “non oppressed” position.

So we have this situation where talking about how men’s violence affects us has been confined to a secluded, professionalised, depoliticised and unequal ‘therapeutic” relationship, which leads to feminists dissociating their feminist-doing from their own lives, as if we didn’t need freeing any more, as if we no longer needed to decolonise from men’s mindbindings and had reached a certain point where our only task is to free other women through LOTS OF ACTIONS. Shouting, picketing, demonstrating, lobbying, campaigning, conferencing, etc. More, more, more, we just haven’t tried hard enough!

In a conversation I recently had with a friend, she noted that women new to feminism were typically action-focused. “What is the next action you’re doing”, “when is the next action?”. It’s action, action, action everywhere, and the punchier the action, the better. But only after several months of talking with women, when the absolute horror of patriarchy dawns on them, do they gradually grow out of their action frenzy, and learn to value the profundity of talking to women more. Still another friend made a similar observation about nowadays generation of younger feminists: “all they want is action, but they never stop to think about the meaning and consequences of what they are doing, of what they’re fighting against and whether it’s the best way to do it. They just don’t think any more.”

Today, if we want to talk to and think with women, we often only have the choice between seeing a psychotherapist, or if we’re lucky, there might be a “talking group” in the style of alcoholics anonymous, reserved for “victims of sexual violence” (implying that they’re a minority of unlucky women). They are group talking sessions coordinated by professional or institutionalised “non-victims” who aren’t there to share their own experiences with other women and grow from this exchange, but positioned as (sometimes but not always feminist) non-victims helping the victims, from above. The point of it is for the designated victims to get better and then carry on with their own lives, not to move each other towards freeing themselves from men’s control and men’s violence. And frankly, they sound dull and dreary. And it’s all deeply antifeminist.

I was told recently that yesterday’s feminists over-confidence in the power of CR was a massive mistake, that we should quit this abstract thought mode to focus more on concrete, to-the-ground REAL stuff such as providing women with shelters away from abusers, get women out of danger etc. But pitting reality against consciousness couldn’t be a bigger mistake IMO. Herstory demonstrates that once women stopped talking to each other to concentrate only on “more serious action” and male-style organising, women began to drift away from liberation to revert back into men’s traps. This is the reformist, male-changing trap. Much has been said on the evils of reformism, look at FCM’s place and read S. Johnson for more.

Women talking and thinking together, raising each other’s consciousness by seeking and discovering the truth about men and our condition in men’s world, is the ONLY thing that ever led thousands of women to break free from their cages all at once. Nothing else has ever transformed so dramatically and profoundly women’s lives. Men have never dreaded anything more than women talking together, realising our condition and acting upon each of our realisations. We need to remember that ALL of our radical feminist theory and writing, the theory that we read today and which continues to spark and move so many women, arose from women talking and thinking together. That the entire women’s movement arose from this. Because it IS movement – metamorphosis. It is the movement of constant intermingling, spinning thoughtstreams of women, bonding and deep exchange, of persistently growing consciousness and change/evolution.

It’s always good to take a look at the original sources again:

Consciousness-raising was seen as both a method for arriving at the truth and a means for action and organizing.  It was a means for the organizers themselves to make an analysis of the situation, and also a means to be used by the people they were organizing and who were in turn organizing more people.  Similarly, it wasn’t seen as merely a stage in feminist development which would then lead to another phase, an action phase, but as an essential part of the overall feminist strategy. [bolds mine]

See how different it is from today? Today collective and personal awakening, if it’s considered at all, is far more likely to be perceived as an initial stage to be gotten over. Once a certain shift in consciousness is experienced, the assumption is made that she now “knows it all or enough anyway” and thus settles at this point to go no further. There is a much male-fostered, rewarded and even harshly-imposed return into stasis, institutionalisation, refusal to go further, repetitive thoughtless action mode. The movement then fails to persist over time and it loses its essential transformative power.

We … saw [consciousness-raising] as an ongoing and continuing source of theory and ideas for action. [still the same source]

And this, which was also quoted in FCM’s article on the importance of thinking and writing:

MINDLESS ACTIVISM

The call for “action” can sometimes be a way of preventing understanding — and preventing radical action.  Action comes when our experience is finally verified and clarified.  There is tremendous energy in consciousness-raising, an enthusiasm generated for getting to the truth of things, finding out what’s really going on.  Learning the truth can lead to all kinds of action and this action will lead to further truths. […] In fact, part of why consciousness-raising is the radical approach is that women are not coming to take immediate action.

[…] In the end the group decided to raise its consciousness by studying women’s lives by topics like childhood, jobs, motherhood, etc.  We’d do any outside reading we wanted to and thought was important.  But our starting point for discussion, as well as our test of the accuracy of what any of the books said, would be the actual experience we had in these areas.  One of the questions…we would bring at all times to our studies would be — who and what has an interest in maintaining the oppression in our lives.

Consciousness and awakening is at the core of our liberation potential and power. Consciousness precedes all action, and by action I mean transformation in our reality. Consciousness becomes and is the action, but the action cannot supersede or precede it – it can only flow with or along thought transformation. Consciousness centredness also means that any action can be food for thought, insight or new ideas and thus continually generate new actions, too.

Awakening and consciousness is different from positive thinking, intellectualism or abstraction, because the latter is either wishful thinking / dissociation (in the case where women are required to deny the reality of violence and adapt to it) or a mind-on-reality enforcement pattern, based on male rapism and semen-tic emission. Men have a thought in mind, and for it to become reality they have to impress it on their living surroundings by violating them – because it inevitably entails treating surrounding life as a permanent shallow, dead canvas, battered to fit into their rigid mind schemes – schemes which are inherently unnatural and separated from life. A shift in consciousness does not require an internal-to-external emission, impression or enforcement, because it already IS an experience of transformation in which mind, body and spirit (the elements) are one. Our reality gradually transforms as we transform, it is a natural, inevitable and harmonious process. Harmonious, meaning that no unnatural authority, machinery or effort is required to experience the change of reality, as it is VISCERAL and NECESSARY. Necessary in the sense that it will necessarily happen over time, as doing integrates into being.

To talk of my experience, there is a very physical aspect to this shift, movement or sparking. The first and most overwhelming awakening I experienced actually felt like a bolt of lightening had struck through my head and uncluttered the calcified, buried and glued parts of my brain. Uncluttered is maybe too mild a word, rather it felt as if my soul had burst free, igniting and reuniting the dormant, isolated synapses in myself through a stream of light: everything suddenly made sense. It didn’t happen overnight but gradually, I wouldn’t be able to give a particular point in time – I know it lasted several months, maybe even a year. But I clearly remember this distinctive feeling. It wasn’t all joyful. I was first overcome by a shrieking, horrified rage at discovering and seeing for the first time with unfettered eyes the unlimited genocidal crimes of men committed against ourselves and our kind, and the whole world crumbled down. There was this constant scream. My first coming home to woman-identification and to the awareness of belonging to women as an oppressed group, was a howl of despair and anger at seeing the bleak, ravaged wasteland that men had left behind them. I suddenly felt the pang of pain of men’s violations in full blow, as my anaesthesia faltered away and I reincarnated in my body. So began my gradual return to life, the journey into radical feminism and bonding with women, which of course isn’t without many obstacles. And I can tell that this shift has led to many deep transformations and transforming decisions and actions in my life that would have been impossible had I not experienced it. And the movement never stops really.

As Mary Daly says in Pure Lust, apparent microshifts in consciousness have the power to bring macrochanges in our reality, in women’s world and possibly the universe. The power yielded by moving ourselves and other women along with us is incredible. This is what I understand by the physics, or metaphysics of liberation – meta because it isn’t just a physical process, it transcends the physical realm. It reunites our male-fragmented parts and reintegrates ourselves to natural life movement. (Finally I get what Sonia Johnson meant by metaphysics!! this is how I understand it at least, I don’t know if that’s what she meant.) Anyway please read pure lust by Mary Daly, especially the last chapters on friendship and happiness and movement, it’s amazingly refreshening and tells a lot about the meta-physics of liberation (ie the experience of transformation on all levels).

Radical feminist, you say?

I have been quite a few years now around various “radical feminist communities”, enough to notice that the majority of women who claim to be radical feminist, lesbian feminist or radical lesbian feminist today don’t in fact get anywhere near the ethical, pro-woman and anti-violence behaviour they claim to believe in or embody. They are simply not the radical feminist or radical lesbian feminist community they claim to represent, but a sad parody of it, and actively prevent women’s liberation from men, from men’s control, men’s violence and parasitism.

This is a difficult topic and a difficult post, but the reason I venture to talk about this is because as radical feminists I believe we have a moral duty to take a stand against harmful behaviours within groups that claim to be radfem, and make it easier for us to identify it and disengage from it. It’s not about criticising women’s individual behaviour but seeing it as politicised destruction of female truth-sayers and male-organised erasure of radical feminism, the transformative and liberating kind. I want to take women seriously and hold each other responsible and accountable for our actions, and also want to be truthful about what represents itself as the radfem movement today and what consequences it has on women, so it can be discussed.

When we look at the more radical spectrum of feminism (this excludes the funfem, queer, pomo, liberal, conservative kind), within this range there are still quite a few ideologies to be found that are toxic to radical feminism. What’s confusing is that the women who buy into those ideologies claim to be radfem, which makes the phallacies more difficult to spot if we’re not used to it. They will say some things that make sense or that borrow from radical feminist theory (anti-rape, anti male violence, anti pornstitution, anti-queer, etc.) yet some aspects will feel like a false note, will feel wrong, empty, plastic, thought-terminating. Amongst those ‘plastic’ or ‘potted’ feminisms (terms coined by Mary Daly) we can find liberal influenced feminisms and reformist activism (the men can change trope), male-friendly feminism, “gender roles/dom-sub as the problem” feminism, radical lesbianism, pro-PIV or pro-relationships with men, intersectionality, refusal to see men as inherently violent – just to name a few.

I’m not going to go into those different ideologies specifically and how they trap women into murky male quicksands because it would take pages to take them down separately and it isn’t the point here.

The fact is that all those different groups have in common the following:

  • they claim to be radical feminist / lesbian radical feminist;

  • they repeat or produce key radical feminist ideas (anti rape, anti porn, anti prostitution, anti male violence against women, sometimes even anti-PIV or anti men)

  • but their analyses are partially flawed or truncated or obfuscate some of the truth, whichever the male ideology it is intoxicated with;

  • The women have reached a certain feminist consciousness but freeze at a given point because of a perceived interest in doing so (status, regognition, publicity, hierarchy, group inclusion, any male carrot)

  • continually forwarding, developing and improving radical feminist thought and action is only secondary (or inexistant) to their aims;

  • In practice, their relationships are ridden with violence which prevents women from moving, and they have to deny this violence in order to keep hold on their male carrot (whichever it is). This ‘freeze’ state is thus maintained through violence and brainwashing.

I’m going to focus on the last point because that’s the most important here. It’s not enough to dislike men, or be anti-pornstitution and anti-lots of things, or to throw some theory or quotes here and there. The base of radical feminism – before we even look at ways of understanding, naming and explaining men’s violence, how it affects us and how it works on many different levels – is to identify the danger and get away from danger. May I repeat: to get away from danger – whichever the danger, from PIV to physical and verbal abuse to mind control to exploitation, etc. If you identify actions that endanger your integrity and expose women to violence, our responsibility is to get away from it, and if we can, to encourage other women to get away from it and identify the source of danger – with all the deprogramming it may entail. Radical feminism, at its core, is about ending all forms of abuse against women and in our own lives, whether it is exercised by men or by male-colonised and mind-controlled women.

This is basic radical feminism and also very basic, common-sense ethics and human decency. When we see abuse in our groups, we need to 1) always empathise and side with the (female) victim, including ourselves, and refuse to identify to the abuser or give excuses for it – and 2) disengage as soon as possible from the abusive woman / group if she/they refuse to stop (with men it’s different, they are inherently abusive so we need to get away from them regardless). If the abuse doesn’t stop, there is no point in negotiating because she will continue to use you for her abuse as long as you are in her reach.

So: side with the victim, cut all proximity and contact with the abusive woman or group if she/they continue despite being warned, and warn other women about the abusive behaviour so they don’t get trapped into it either, to prevent new victims to be drawn in. This might mean leaving the whole group if the others happen to side with the abuser and try to shut you up for calling it out. It might be a difficult decision but it’s a necessary one, because it means leaving an unsafe, dangerous environment where the costs of staying are far too important, regardless of the perceived benefits. The world is big, possibilities are infinite, it is a lie and a reversal that your life and sanity depends on this group. And if it’s me being abusive, I need to stop immediately and thereby try to understand why I need to inflict pain on others or to control others, what pain or fear am I trying to escape by doing so, so I won’t repeat the violence again and again.

There is simply no change and no liberation possible if we continue to expose ourselves to some form of threat or violence, whichever the form of violence. It is antithetical to freedom, life-terminating, psychically and physically maiming. So at it’s most minimal, the point of radical feminism is to rid our lives not only from men but from all male instituted forms of relating based on life destruction, trauma, sadism and parasitism. This doesn’t disappear magically just because women get together in a same physical space. It requires deep, dedicated and continual change from the way men groomed us to be, so we can experience freedom.

Now back to the last point of the list. I said that the vast majority of those claiming to be radfem and representing the “radfem movement” aren’t, in fact, radfem. Yes. And really, the most striking aspect of this is the observation that in practice, their relationships are ridden with violence. I realised this in group after group, with disbelief (or not). To me the presence of interwoman violence is the most important factor to look at when judging whether I can trust a woman to be radfem or not, and it is also a matter of personal survival and personal safety – I can’t afford to expose myself to more destruction. And women who condone, excuse, deny violence, side with abusers or exercise some forms of violence themselves and especially refuse to stop when told, are not radfem and actively prevent women’s liberation. I’m saying this because it is important that women realise this and don’t repeat the same mistakes and stop doing them.

The kind of violence or disruption I have witnessed include:

1) the bystanders:

  • Basically, they never side with the victims, rationalise the abuse and refuse to take a stand against it, identify to the abusers, continue to engage with them in spite of lots of evidence that they are destructive, deny the facts, etc. Subtle variants are:

  • to indirectly or unwittingly drag other women into unsafe or abusive situations simply because they themselves are incapable of getting away from it. This is why bystanders aren’t safe to be around with either if they show no willingness to change.

  • refuse to listen to the women victims when they say they were abused / badly treated by other women

  • remain silent or “neutral” to maintain an imaginary sisterhood, which equates to siding with the abuse and abuser

  • they’ll admit the abuse happened but won’t accept to see XYZ woman’s behaviour as chronically dysfunctional or toxic and therefore side with the abuser.

  • they’ll admit that they themselves were badly treated but deny that it’s abusive, or minimise the harmful impact it had on them and rationalise that the benefits exceed the costs – therefore they can’t identify with the other victims

  • they don’t accept the abuse happened so they will deny the abuse altogether and try to erase it from their minds by silencing the victims (accusing them of being divisive, of lying, exaggerating, trashing, of being unsisterly, etc.).

Bystanders form the majority of the non-movement and are in large part responsible for the undermining and sabotaging of radical feminism (or maybe, should I say, responsible for nothing else but the fraud of their non-movement, because once you disengage from them, they don’t sabotage your work any more because they don’t have access to you). Responsibility not in a punishment or guilt-tripping way but in terms of responsibility to stop, disengage and take an ethical stand against the abuse and disruption. So few women take that responsibility in the “community”, it’s shocking (or maybe unsurprising?).

The essential dynamic to understand with bystanders is that it works very much like victims of cult groups (which does mean that the groups in question function like cults). Radical feminism is perceived as a status or source of recognition that can be gained, lost or competed for (as opposed to a way of being and thinking regardless of where and with whom we are), and the group or the leaders of the group perceived as holding monopoly over delivering such “status” or recognition. The point is to “move up” to the leaders / and stay close to the group to continue to benefit from this recognition or magic status, or access to resources or audience, or whatever carrot. The leaders take advantage of their own scarcity as “radfems” (scarcity which is man-made) and of other women’s emotional deprivation to reinforce their dependency on the group and gain control. A common tactic to reinforce dependency is to alternate between love-bombing and abuse or domineering behaviour.

Victims will believe – to different degrees of course – that this group is their only means for emotional survival, that without this group there is no hope for women’s liberation, nothing else exists, they would be alone with nobody to help them and will suffer terribly (exclusion can be perceived as a matter of life and death, especially when it touches on trauma of childhood emotional abuse, this is not to be minimised). Their fear of being excluded or of losing the perceived benefits secures their loyalty to the group or leaders no matter how unethical, perverse, disruptive to radical feminism or abusive the leaders are. The bystanders must forsake their critical thinking and belief in their perceptions and be in denial of their own pain and suffering to remain in that group.

This is of course profoundly anti-radfem, and goes against women’s freedom. I believe we have a responsibility to stop supporting abusive behaviour, or if some don’t want to stop, to be at least a bit coherent and stop calling it radical feminist. We also have a responsibility to stop calling the bystanders and abusers of the non-movement, radical feminist, because doing so is participating in their fraud. It indirectly supports the destructive power of some women over others, allowing them to usurp radical feminism to recruit more victims, putting women in danger and actively preventing women’s liberation from men.

2) the abusers

  • They are a smaller part of the non-movement and do the lion’s share of abusing and terrorising women, and are usually chronic abusers. I have witnessed such behaviours as:

  • Generally functioning only in power-over modes, and driving out those who refuse to submit.

  • Punishment of women who exercise individual, critical thinking

  • Alternating between abuse, threats, and lovebombing

  • Destroying, pillaging, exploiting, stealing women’s work in radical feminism, especially from women with no perceived status

  • Contempt for women’s time, involvement and safety, extreme poor planning that strains or endangers women and saps energy

  • Outing women and compromising their anonymity

  • Economic control over women, or using economic resources to gain control over women

  • Domineering behaviour, control of all processes of organisation at the expense of the group or group decisions, underhanded or under the table decision-making processes (for instance where the real decisions are taken outside of the meetings by a small minority and the collective meetings are merely used as a facade)

  • Strong involvement in male-modelled politicking, careerism, activism, all based on male modes of power-over, control, competition, hierarchy, scarcity, sacrifice, dissociation

  • taking over groups as a form of ‘coup’, and purging of all opponents

  • Purging of women from the network who threaten their monopoly over xyz resource and control over the group, doing everything to prevent their access to resources or contacts.

  • Pathological lying, chronic trolling

  • Constant instrumentalisation of women to achieve dubious ends, and then discarding them if they are no longer of use / treating women only as useful means for ends

  • Invasive behaviours (for instance blackmailing)

  • Aggressive verbal / psychological behaviours: shouting at women, treating women like shit, insulting women until they cry, demeaning women, mocking them, humiliations, verbal attacks and public libel/accusation, guilt-tripping, gaslighting, manipulation and deceit, terrorising, causing panick attacks, etc.

  • reprisals against women who denounce or name the harmful behaviours (usually by creating alliances against the name-caller, isolating her and silencing her).

  • Securing of certain key positions, alliances and resources so they can continue to dominate and abuse with impunity.

  • Sexual objectifying of women

  • Sexually invasive and aggressive behaviours, including sexual assault

  • Abuse within a lesbian couple, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Disgusting list ey? These are horrible behaviours yet they are the norm in the ‘radical feminist’ non-movement. And those are the behaviours that the bystanders support. Sad picture. There’s not that much more to say about the abusers really, most has been said about how they organise their monopoly and control over women in the bystanders’ part. The most important thing to remember though is that abusive women rarely change in a fortnight, especially if they still have access to their victims. Unless there’s evidence that she can both listen to the victim and change her behaviour, that is, put an end to the harm in a short amount of time (because sometimes the former is possible but not the latter) the best thing to do both for the victims and for the abusers is to cut all ties with them, never to contact them again, and disengage from those who support the abuser, too.

It’s pretty simple in fact, and it changes your life! I personally feel much freer now that I’m not tied any more to those from the non-movement. I can tell you that non-abusive, non-dominating relationships between women are perfectly feasible and it takes you very far, it’s wonderful. And no more wasted time and energy reacting to the endless soul-destroying and life-sucking non-activity. The possibilities are so much more infinite.

To conclude, it is our responsibility to refuse to name destructive groups or behaviour as radical feminist, even if they claim to be so or are longstanding ‘radfems’, and to be very rigorous in our definitions of radical feminism. This isn’t about hurting women’s feelings and excluding women (from what?) but about being coherent between what we say and do, and acting ethically. It’s taking our liberation seriously and refusing to live in a world of violence and insecurity. It doesn’t mean we should all be perfect at once, but that we should strive to refuse violence and act on it when we see it in other women or ourselves – all women are capable of doing this. Women aren’t stupid, we know when things feel or are wrong or not. If we claim to be radfem when our behaviour says otherwise, it’s exactly like abusive parents who tell children not to do something while doing it themselves. It completely discredits the intended message, the messenger, and it’s lying. It is of no use at all, except to prevent women from accessing radical feminism. For those who think I’m harsh, well, what I find harsh is all the abuse and tolerance of abuse in the so-called radfem community, the harm it does to women.

 

* I thank all the women with whom I’ve had discussions about this, it helped me see everything with much more clarity. Thanks to Delphyne for putting the word ‘bystander’ to the secondary group of damage-supporters.

Interview with a blogger from Radfem-ological Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RI: I didn’t know that.

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

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

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

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


past musings

themes

Join 388 other followers