Archive for the 'radical lesbian critique series' Category

Summary of lefty male anti-feminist tactics

Or: mapping some of the big branches of antifeminism, where they come from and where we are today etc. Or: looking at intersectionality, radical lesbianism, contempt for victims and general male activist / reformist practices from a broader perspective.

I’ve been preparing a synthesis between the criticism of radical lesbianism and intersectionality to have a bigger picture of both and where they come from, and as I see things in patterns I thought I’d first draw it out to make it clearer to myself and others. So this is a first introductory part and more will come later.

We do know the vast majority of women from the women’s movement in the 70s either came from the left or civil rights movement, and were subsequently joined by women coming from lesbian and gay activism.

The positive influence from the left was that women carried with them and further developed the structural analyses that led to the radical feminist theories we have today. I assume at the time, many more women had a basic understanding of politics and oppressive structures compared to today where neoliberal patriarchal ideology has completely taken over, and so many women are convinced that everything they think comes from their own mind and their choices are the result of their own self-determined will.

However the lefty escapees who shaped the WLM also brought with them some of the internalised male attitudes and masculinist activist practices they had to cope with in the male-led organisations, which then visibly shaped the way they applied their feminism. It’s true that these women made a great effort to decolonise from the imperialistic practices of the organisations they fled from, such as getting rid of hierarchical structures, vertical decision-making and doing the immense work of cutting through all the misogynist lies and reversals about patriarchy etc, however some of this work remained largely incomplete as is evidenced by the fact we still struggle with it today, even with newer generations of feminists. Not that it’s their fault, I think it’s a normal process and they went as far as they could at the time.

The interesting thing is that the pattern works the same whichever the generation of women it concerns: what men did against women in leftist organisations then, and how it trickled down to feminism once women left those organisations afterwards, is happening today with younger generations in the same way. The tactics of sabotage of feminism haven’t really changed.

Hereunder I’ve summarised the different male left anti-feminist practices I’ve identified, then and today – unwittingly brought in by women escaping the left and forming women-only movements. It’s also a summary of the different anti-feminist politics I’ve observed in radical lesbian or intersectional-lefty influenced feminist groups, from which male groups they come from and what they have in common. For instance, a lot of misogynist radical lesbian ideologies and practices come from gay male groups. But radical lesbians are also heavily influenced by intersectionality since RL is based on liberal identity-politics and more generally influenced by the left, so that’s where it crosses over with lefty /socialist men.

Anyway hope it makes sense (click to see it full size).

male toxic influences on feminism

I’ve also noticed that whichever lefty liberal strand anti-feminist strategies come from, they present the same characteristics. This is what I’ve tried to summarise here:

Lefty male strategies of anti-feminism

I assume this is very obvious to radical feminists but it helps to have it laid out properly. If I’ve missed anything or if you’d add anything to these lists, fire away!

a not so feminist separatist communitarianism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Separatist communitarianism based on fear and dissociation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recruitment is not a feminist strategy

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

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

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

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

Feminism is about bonding with women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Additional notes on heterosexuality and privilege

Just to make things clear, my series:

is NOT in any way a defence or excuse of anti-lesbianism from part of heterosexual women. Anti-lesbianism is part of men’s arsenal to crush women and prevent us from resisting compulsory heterosexuality and bonding with other women. Just as with anti-feminism, racism, classism and general maiming of women, men use the women they own as vessels of anti-lesbian repression. I have repeatedly stated in many of my posts that any form of misogyny from part of women, whoever the woman is and whatever the form it takes, is a result of being oppressed and colonised by men and that it can be unsafe to be around such women. Although I never blame any woman for being oppressed or colonised by male ideas, I do hold her responsible for ceasing to harm other women.

I also maintain that just as with any aspect of male oppression, anti-lesbianism is driven and organised by men, not women. Focusing on the snide remarks, exclusion and snobbery of women compared to the institutional crushing of lesbians by men is like looking at the pebble instead of the mountain. It is not women who set up the asylums to lobotomise and electrocute lesbians, who commit corrective rapes of lesbians, who write the laws to outlaw lesbianism, who control the medical and psychiatric institutions which pathologise lesbians and force us to mutilate ourselves so to assimilate physically to men, nor do women secretly control the male gay movement which turned lesbianism into phallic-worshipping BDSM practices, own the porn industry which transformed the entire lesbian movement into an LGBTQ male porn fantasy, or control the male trans lobby which erases lesbians to the extent of replacing us by men in dress, etc, etc.

My series is also NOT a judgement of lesbianism, of lesbian communities, lesbian commitment or of the rightful anger against the oppression and erasure of lesbians, and actually my post has not much to do with lesbianism at all (sorry). I’m criticising the misogynist and male-centred views on heterosexuality of a very specific, small group of women which has emerged in the 80s and call themselves radical lesbians. Radical lesbianism is a small fringe within the lesbian and lesbian feminist movement and doesn’t represent all of radical lesbian feminism at all. It’s a hybrid lesbian separatist movement with some twisted input of pseudo feminism, intersectional and gay/queer ideology on heteronormativity. For some reason some radical lesbians also call themselves radical feminists or radical lesbian feminists and I don’t know whether or not they’re aware of the difference in meaning but it’s important we don’t confuse them and name radical lesbian ideology accordingly.

In fact radical lesbian views on heterosexuality works very much like intersectionality in that it’s displaced anger against women based on a myth and reversal of female privilege, and especially based on pervasive hatred and disgust of what men have reduced women to be under eons of debasement and sexual subordination – the disgust of women who are penetrated by men. While the anti-lesbianism of such women is real and truly felt by lesbians, the fact these women are beneficiary agents of this erasure, and deserving of contempt for being owned by men is totally wrong. As I said colonisation of women by definition works against all women, the colonised as much as the recipient of their misogyny. Take a look at my posts on intersectionality and colonisation for further information as I’m not going to repeat myself.

In the same way as intersectionality, radical lesbian views on heterosexuality are an outgrowth of lefty male anti-feminist tactics which renders men’s responsibility invisible, undoes feminist analyses of men’s sexual violence, intimidates and silences those women who denounce it and targets women instead of men.

The reason I insist in writing this and on criticising radical lesbian views on heterosexuality is that it specifically attacks the foundation of feminist understanding of our oppression: the inherent oppressive nature of intercourse and heterosexuality. Intercourse and hetero-captivity being the central building block of men’s oppression, it comes to no surprise that men do everything to erase our awareness of it. It’s also perfectly normal in a context of continued backlash against feminists that the reversals and denials have deeply infiltrated women’s groups, whether lesbian or not. However such misogynist views have no place in radical feminism and my point is to demonstrate that having contempt for the vast majority of women trapped by men’s heterocaptive system is, well, extremely misogynist.

Anyhow I don’t understand why hardly anyone openly protests against the enormity of the reversal that hetero-captivity and intercourse are a source of privilege and freedom of choice for women. This belief fails such basic understanding of patriarchal violence and is such a direct product of common male propaganda that I can’t understand how it’s been tolerated for so long in the radical feminist movement. Not to mention that it is primarily lesbians who produced most of radical feminist criticism of intercourse and compulsory heterosexuality, and saying that it’s anti-lesbian to name the inherent violence of PIV and heterosexuality is just laughable.

I’m also sick of the crass misogyny of statements such as heterosexual women are privileged dick-lovers who should own up to it and go eat more dick (paraphrasing here), and that radical feminists who criticise PIV and heterosexuality are just “ex hets” frustrated about having had bad sex with men and want to whine about it or get sympathy from lesbians. The “you just need to be fucked right” is the typical kind of rape-threat men throw at women who refuse to submit to them sexually. These views are unacceptable and a reproduction of the most vile and base woman-hatred. What it also amounts to is accusing women of being whores who are too stupid to admit they are one.

Well, why not say that to prostitution survivors? Say that to incest rape survivors. Say that to abuse survivors. No? Because this is what we all are as women. Prostitution, PIV/rape and incest *are* the heterosexual institution. Ask a man if it’s gay to penetrate his daughter, his wife, the prostituted woman. The essence of heterosexuality is sexual violation, and no woman has escaped this violation when in close and prolonged contact with men. We are all survivors of male abuse, at different degrees for sure, but male abuse it is.

***

Some basic facts on heterosexuality:

Heterosexuality is compulsory, that is we are psychologically conditioned (through propaganda) and physically forced into it (through sexual harassment, rape, marriage and pimping). This is one of the very basic tenets of radical feminism. Compulsory means the opposite of choice. By definition women never choose to be owned by a man, and the only free choice we can make is to resist hetero-captivity by becoming separatist, lesbian or celibate.

Heterosexuality is the system which guarantees each man sexual access to a woman and exclusive ownership over her so he can rape, impregnate and use her as his personal breeder and domestic slave. It’s the foundational institution of patriarchal oppression, on which all patriarchal institutions – economic, state, medical, religious, military, etc – are built on.

Most if not all patriarchal societies have divided the heterosexual system into two sub-systems: one is marriage in which individual men acquire individual women exclusively for intercourse, reproduction and domestic slavery; the other is prostitution, in which some men (pimps) own and rent women exclusively for being raped by any passing man, as a form of public service by and for men.

In the old days and still very much today, marriage used to be the only political structure that guaranteed men’s right to acquire a woman permanently for intercourse and breeding. The term “heterosexuality” is fairly recent in history, and appeared in the 19th century at the same time as the pathologisation and psychologisation of lesbians and gays. When women started to free themselves from the institution of marriage, men progressively replaced marriage with compulsory intercourse to all men, and this was sold as sexual liberation to women. However this was nothing other than the liberation of lefty men so they could fuck all the women they wanted outside of the constraints of bourgeois society (see Ti-Grace Atkinson, Sheila Jeffreys and Andrea Dworkin).

***

Heterosexual privilege?

No radical lesbian so far has given any concrete and sound evidence for this mythical heterosexual privilege: on what economic, material, psychological advantages is “het” privilege based on? On anti-lesbian behaviour by some women? Anti-lesbianism from part of women is no evidence of privilege, but of being colonised by men. Economic advantages? Possessed women don’t even own themselves and most husbands control or loot their wive’s resources. Heteronormative advantages at work or in social circles? How can it be a social advantage to exist only as a potential prey for sexual harassment and as dick receptacle to men? I can’t see how women who are turned into penetrable, touchable possessions by men, devoid of any right even to basic integrity, colonised to such an extent that we don’t even have thoughts of our own, socially gain from this. It makes no sense at all that this be considered a privilege.

In the same way, the claims that lesbians and celibate women are more subject to violence than women who are directly possessed by men are unfounded. It’s a reversal both from a logical and statistical perspective: the degree of freedom from patriarchal oppression/violence is measured by how much male violence you’re subjected to, in terms of frequency and severity, and thus by the extent to which you’re held captive to an abusive man or male institution. Women who are or were recently possessed by men are by far the most exposed population to regular rape, beatings, psychological violence, forced pregnancy, persecution, exploitation, theft and murder, because that’s exactly how men maintain and exercise their sex right over us. Statistically, around 80% of rapes and all forms of violence against women are committed by men close to the victim – that is men who have ownership rights over the woman (father, husband, pimp/trafficker, boyfriend, brother etc.). Women’s first cause of death in the world is murder by a male partner.

Therefore, absence of male owner = less exposure to the violence and terror of a male owner. It’s of absolute simplicity. Those women who live furthest away from men on a daily basis and who are more economically autonomous from men are those who are least exposed to male violence, whatever their sexuality is. The further away you go from a source of danger, the least likely you are exposed to that danger. Once we leave men and former abusers no longer have their grip over us, the violence is more likely to come from the outside rather than from within our own home, which makes a lot of a difference both in how we perceive it and how we can escape or resist it. And it doesn’t mean lesbians or spinsters are privileged or less oppressed, but simply that once we’ve ejected men from our intimate lives we’ll be less exposed to male violence on a regular basis compared to a woman who lives with and is owned by a man. We’re lucky. That’s all. This isn’t oppression olympics but simply stating a fact that the closer you are to violent men, the more you’re exposed to their violence. And that’s the very point of freeing ourselves from men and becoming a lesbian / radical feminist separatist in the first place, because it’s a way of protecting ourselves from the worst forms of male violence.

If we view heterosexuality as a privilege and free choice instead of as the source of all women’s oppression, how can we even claim to be a feminist? What is women’s liberation based on if the point isn’t for all women to free ourselves from men and save our lives? If lesbianism/separatism is more oppressive than being owned by a man, on what moral, political and ethical grounds should we argue for women to leave men if we see it as forsaking privileges and social protections? On the grounds that lesbianism or separatism is morally purer, that women can purge their sins of being a whore by becoming a lesbian? Is that what it means?

If we view heterosexual women as privileged, then what’s the point of creating rape crisis centres, women’s refuges, support networks for abuse victims who want to get away from men? We might as well send them all back to their abuser’s home and ask them to check their privilege first, how dare they come up with het stories up into our face! How oppressive and inconsiderate to us! And before they leave, not forget to wag a finger at them for having made a bad choice and for betraying us lesbians. Is that what lesbian feminist solidarity is based on? Or, maybe the view is more “nuanced”, and we distinguish between “real” victims who are completely innocent because reasons, and “bad” privileged victims who are slutty dick-loving traitors who asked for it because they had all the choice of the world, but they just can’t own up to that fact and pretend to whine about it?

Seriously, I’m not saying that lightly, I’ve rarely seen or heard such misogynist and woman-blaming statements by women as from radical lesbians.

The truth is that the menace of het privilege is as phony as cis privilege: it’s a lie, to intimidate women, to make us feel guilty for what men inflict on us, and especially, to threaten and silence women for denouncing men’s sexual violence, for calling intercourse and heterosexuality for what it is: rape and enslavement.

Women, don’t be deceived by it.

 

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.

 


past musings

themes

Join 381 other followers