I am a radical feminist, and I have been for, by now, many years. By this I mean I am interested in understanding deeply, and working to change, all of the structures and institutions and mechanisms by way of which girls and women, are harmed, used, exploited and mistreated. Of course, the same structures and institutions that harm girls and women also harm men and boys, all humanity, animals and the earth. Everything is connected. We are all in this together. We are all just walking each other home, as the saying goes. Consistent with historic radical feminism, I am also a peace activist, nonviolent and a civil rights activist. Radical feminism came out of the anti-war, peace, nonviolence and civil rights movements of the ’60s. The reason radical feminists created a new movement apart from these movements is, women and girls were being mistreated by men in those movements, treated as second class citizens, and sadly, too often raped, sexually assaulted, physically abused and harmed in other ways. Being progressive, in other words, did not protect us from sexism.
As a radical feminist, my studies have taught me to oppose the structure that we understand as and call “gender.” We all “have” sex — we are male or female or intersex. But gender is something that is imposed on us externally. Men are schooled in dominance (masculinity), women are schooled in submission (femininity), to put it very simply. These views place me as a radical feminist at odds with those who disagree with respect to gender. There are many people right now who believe that gender (the rituals of masculinity and femininity) is a real thing, something people are born with and can’t change, something to be pursued, assumed, embraced. While I deeply believe this view is dangerous to female people, I do not reject the people who hold it, and I certainly respect their right to believe and live what makes sense to them. But this latter respect has not been and is not being returned. Consistently, whenever we as radical feminists have sought to hold conferences or meetings, we have been aggressively, in a very threatening manner at times, de-platformed, petitions launched, the owners of venues approached and told, essentially, that we should not have a right to gather, hold conferences or other events or to speak publicly. In a staggeringly bizarre move this week, the Multnomah Friends Quaker meeting house decided to pull a venue for a conference that is open to the public and has been organized to facilitate dialog among people who differ on this issue. Folks who oppose our views and politics around gender contacted the Quaker folks and convinced them to pull the venue. This, despite the fact that registrants for the conference, that is again open to the public, span the gambit of political beliefs and include transgender persons. We intend to speak peaceably to these issues and to work towards understanding with those who differ with us. This is the way of nonviolence, it is the way of peace. It’s become scary, really, the aggression we are experiencing. It may well be, as I have long said and thought, that this is a battle we, as radical feminists, cannot win and have likely already lost. But we do not deserve to have to fight simply to hold conferences designed for dialog and peacemaking. The aggression in our direction is serious and scary and more and more people deserve to know what is happening to us. More here and here. Also, Gender.
A new post by Doug Wilson about Doug Phillips’ resignation (which begins with a passive-voice reference to “father rule;” why not the manlier, more testosterone-ly active voice, “rule of the fathers” instead, given the belief that patriarchy is the natural, biological, biblical order of things) concludes:
A man with lots of testosterone is in a position to start a dynamic ministry that speaks to thousands, that fills conference halls, and that rivets people to their seats. Taking a hypothetical, that very same man is also in a much better position to succumb to the blandishments of a stripper with a stage name of Foxy Bubbles, and all in the settled conviction that his sin will not find him out. How could his sin find him out? He rivets people to their seats.
Samson eventually had his eyes put out, but even before he lost his eyes he was not able to see what Delilah was doing with and to him. The thing that God was using against the Philistines, his strength, was also the thing that Delilah was using in a series of sexual jiu jitsu moves against Samson. It is an old trick, and it still works very, very well.
We don’t know, and may never know, what Doug Phillips did, why he resigned or why his nonprofit ministry (though not his for-profit business, so far) was shuttered by the board of Vision Forum. In a series of Hugo-Schwyzer-redolent online reappearances, Phillips has come back twice now with addenda to his resignation, the latest acknowledging his infidelity was indeed physical and sexual (not emotional only, as some of his supporters seemed to hope). What we do know is that Phillips’ friends can be counted upon to blame the woman and to give Phillips a pass. In their view, men are darn near defenseless against the sexual jiu jitsu of these tricky Delilah types, who blandish like strippers. Meanwhile, the patriarchs will get busy creating new and improved lists of rules and regulations for girls and young women along the lines of “No more young unaccompanied women anywhere there is a man.” And so, girls in an unending supply will grow up learning to obey men, and that sometimes when they obey men, it’s wrong and sinful, and when it is, the wrongness of it will be on them. And boys, in an unending supply, will learn to fear girls and women, to blame them when men sin, and that greater and greater control over the lives and bodies of those born female is necessary and right. A lower, more debased, depraved view of girls and women and of boys and men, as well, can hardly be imagined or envisioned.
The value in paying attention as this unfolds lies in how unapologetic and forthright the patriarchs and their supporters are in their attacks on those born female and in their sympathies and compassion for those born male. They’re proud of themselves. They believe in what they’re doing. It is primitive and instructive. As women we continue to struggle for safety, respect and dignity today, in the year 2013, in the United States, for reasons which are apparent in the behaviors of Doug Phillips and those who surround and support him.
I have been reading about the resignation of Doug Phillips, a long-time leader in the homeschooling and quiverfull movements, someone I’ve written about here on this blog. In doing so, I’ve come across plenty to be disturbed about. But the following I find beyond disturbing. It is the writing of Doug Wilson, a long-time pastor, author and leader in homeschooling/quiverfull circles and a good friend of Doug Phillips. Phillips sells his books.
I was excommunicated 20 years ago this coming July. When I was a member of this community, while there was much to be concerned about, there was nothing (that I knew of anyway) so egregious as what I’ve read over the past couple of days, this, arguably, being the most egregious of all, written by Wilson:
A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.
This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.
This quote was included in a blog post at Love, Joy, Feminism by Libby Anne. She links to the original post and a follow-up post, but the links don’t go anywhere now. That this is the kind of thing that is being thought — believed — much less taught, including to young people, is horrifying. I want to rescue them all. I wish I’d never read this, never seen it. I wish there were something I could do to stand against it meaningfully. It is abusive and sickening.
The selling of women’s bodies in prostitution is a human rights issue and a civil rights issue. Please sign and circulate this petition. – Heart
Petitioning Michel Sidibe, Executive Director at UN AIDS Organisation
It appears you are more concern with keeping the status quo of the sex trade – that allow unacceptable amounts of rapes, sexual torturing and murders of all the prostituted. This is mainly because by making prostitution normal – it gives full reign to male violence and hate to all the prostituted.
You are using the spread of HIV as a stalking horse to bring about the legalisation of prostitution. This is disgusting, and does nothing for the safety and human rights of the prostituted – it just is seen as an inconvenient for the punters and the sex trade profiteers.
It is almost impossible for most prostitute to make a punter wear protection – when he believe he own her completely, and will use violence to get his way. Also, most sex trade profiteers encourage non-protection for more money.
Not using condoms is common in an environment of desperation and violence – and many prostitutes if not the majority have extreme self-hatred where they cannot care about their sexual, mental or physical welfare.
I cannot believe you would even consider that sex trade profiteers should not be made criminals – they are usually facilitating mass rape, allowing physical, mental and sexual torturing on their premises, may be internally and/or externally women and girls into prostitution, allowing under-aged prostitution, and often murder the prostitutes who they consider to be their goods. How can that not be criminal – only if you view the prostituted as not human so not deserving of human rights.
I find you have abandoned the prostituted in favour of the status quo of the sex trade. You are throwing us away, and there is great grief, fury and despair from many exited women that you have so little compassion or empathy for the prostituted class.
Please do not throw us away – yours faithfully, Rebecca Mott
What’s it like when the first four female Supreme Court Justices get together to sit for one oil portrait? “Semi-controlled chaos,” artist Nelson Shanks told us. The painting, unveiled Monday at the National Portrait Gallery, took not quite eight weeks to complete, and involved a very “upbeat” four-hour portrait session with the justices all talking and joking. “They’re tremendously good friends,” said museum director Kim Sajet. “They joke around a lot, and they respect each other a lot.” Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are scheduled to attend a private gathering Monday night at the gallery to celebrate the painting, which was first commissioned by art collectors Ian and Annette Cumming about two years ago. And no, it’s not a coincidence that O’Connor and Ginsburg are the ones seated on the couch, in a room based on the Supreme Court Building — Sotomayor and Kagan are the relative newbies, so they had to stand. –Link
“Grace and Carol look at each other’s scrapbook pages and say, “Oh, yours is so good. Mine’s no good. Mine’s awful.” They say this every time we play the scrapbook game. Their voices are wheedling and false; I can tell they don’t mean it, each one thinks her own lady on her own page is good. But it’s the thing you have to say, so I begin to say it too.
“I find this game tiring– it’s the weight, the accumulation of all these objects, these possessions that would have to be taken care of, packed, stuffed into cars, unpacked. I know a lot about moving house. But Carol and Grace have never moved anywhere. Their ladies live in a single house each and have always lived there. They can add more and more, stuff the pages of their scrapbooks with dining room suites, beds, stacks of towels, one set of dishes after another, and think nothing of it.
“I begin to want things I’ve never wanted before: braids, a dressing gown, a purse of my own. Something is unfolding, being revealed to me. I see that there’s a whole world of girls and their doings that has been unknown to me, and that I can be part of it without making any effort at all. I don’t have to keep up with anyone, run as fast, aim as well, make loud explosive noises, decode messages, die on cue. I don’t have to think about whether I’ve done these things well, as well as a boy. All I have to do is sit on the floor and cut frying pans out of the Eaton’s Catalogue with embroidery scissors, and say I’ve done it badly. Partly this is a relief.” — Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye
Dianne Reidy, the court stenographer who interrupted the vote in the House of Representatives to end the U.S. government shutdown last night with fervent warnings and admonitions about freemasons and God not being mocked and houses divided was not having a “meltdown”. She didn’t “lose it,” she isn’t “crazy,” she’s fine. She’s a conservative Christian, of the “charismatic” persuasion, and she was exercising what she believes to be the gift of prophecy. As is true of those of her persuasion, including folks like Michele Bachmann and Ted Cruz and his preacher father, and many, though not all, of the Tea Party persuasion, she believes that we are living in the end times, that the United States has turned its back on God and is therefore under the judgment of God, and that as a matter of faith and conscience, she is obligated to speak the truth as she understands it. That’s what she was doing there at the dais. Dragging her off to the hospital for a mental evaluation was silly and unnecessary. Folks prophecy in churches across the United States (and throughout the world). just as she did yesterday in the House, every Sunday, or every Saturday, if they’re seventh-day types, and in midweek services as well and sometimes in their homes. I’m sure that, as House members have said, Reidy’s a very nice person, a gentle soul who is liked and respected by everyone. That’s just the thing.
The folks who spearheaded and supported the government shutdown are convinced, and will continue to stand firm in the belief, that shutting the government down was and is the right thing to do. How individuals, communities, nations — even they, themselves and the people they love most dearly, their husbands and wives, kids and grandkids — are affected by the shutdown is not important to them. Their beliefs are what’s important to them, their principles, if you will, and beyond these, what they understand to be their own obedience to God. What they’ve done over the last couple of weeks, or supported, is, in their minds, what their faith requires of them. They have to do what they’ve done.
The biggest mistake anyone could make right now is to dismiss these folks or the significance of the shutdown. It’s people like this, with beliefs like those they hold — most of them, honestly, are the nicest, kindest people you would ever want to meet on a personal, day-to-day basis, and many of them are highly educated and truly intelligent — who have been responsible for some of the darkest chapters of human history. They didn’t intend to hurt anyone, that’s not why they did what they did. Sometimes they, themselves were hurt most of all, sometimes they and their loved ones died. This was of no consequence to them though. For these folks, “truth,” as they understand it — whether it comes from the Bible, or from the promptings of the Holy Spirit, or from the consensus of their own communities, which they believe to be Holy Spirit-led — is all that matters. So far as they are concerned, bring on any and all U.S. government shutdowns. Bring on the end of government. Bring everyone — to the last human being standing — to that person’s knees, for that matter. What matters to them is the will of God, as they understand it, and what’s happened over the last couple of weeks may be just the beginning. They’ve been quietly ascending, quietly ascending, all along the way dismissed as “loonies” and “crazies” and “whackos” by leftists, progressives and moderates; meanwhile, they’ve jockeyed themselves into a position of power such that they can pull off a couple-weeks-long shutdown of the U.S. government.
This editorial by Joseph Ellis of the Los Angeles Times is, I think, written somewhat tongue-in-cheek; in fact, Ellis is exactly right and right on about these folks. They want back to the 13 original pre-Constitution colonies, back to votes for male land-owners only, back to ministers as civil leaders, judges and law-enforcement, back to the Bible as the law of the land, and yes, back to the pillory and assorted public punishments and executions for all and any who reject God’s law as they understand it– women who speak or behave out of turn, adulterers, so called, lesbians and gay men, folks who reject the restrictions and impositions of gender, men who are unwilling to control their families via violence and beatings, folks who are heretics or blasphemers because they don’t believe in God or disagree about the Bible or religious doctrines of various kinds. Belief systems like those of by far most members of the Tea Party are powerful; they can and do cause otherwise good, kind, decent people to do things that are unbelievable and even unthinkable. Those who laugh and point the finger and make fun are not understanding. Take these people seriously.
“Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a defiant old lady. The beginning of the 1890s coincided with the onset of Stanton’s old age…During the 1880s and 1890s Stanton had to contend with the symptoms of aging: physical ailments, retirement, financial insecurity, death of friends, family estrangement and generational conflict. But those factors did not define or dominate her old age…She had survived her husband, outlived most of her enemies, and exhausted her allies. Her mind remained alert, her mood optimistic and her manner combative.
“In a period of anticipated and actual dependence for most older people, Stanton became increasingly independent. Personally, she had established the kind of “associative household” she had long advocated and enjoyed her “matriarchy.” Professionally, she supported herself by writing, completing her autobiography and The Women’s Bible in addition to numerous speeches, articles and newspaper columns. Politically, she remained aloof from the merger of rival factions in the [women’s] movement…Psychologically, she shed the last vestiges of dependence. She moved beyond her last confidante, Susan B. Anthony, and came to rely wholly on her own judgment and values…As an old woman, Stanton came into her own. She was honored as a feminist foremother and as a grandmother. She was self-supporting and self-sustaining. Physically crippled, she was otherwise unfettered. … She had internalized her own standard of independence and needed only her own approval.”– Elisabeth Griffith in In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Chapter 11, Self Sovereign, 1889-1902
I trust that Ms. Ajibola’s genuine intention is indeed to “show the world that Islam is beautiful,” which I recognize as necessary, particularly in the context of misinformation and often outright hostility towards Islam. As a Muslim woman, however, I take great offense when the religious teachings on the foremost importance of inner beauty are manipulated to deprive women, whether clothed or naked, of their inherent dignity, simply because their life choices do not align with those of my own. …
For those few who choose to use spiritual teachings to entitle themselves to arrogance and moral policing of others, it is sadly the amount of cloth over a woman’s body that determines her worth. Instead, I wish that we understood that objectification of women does not mechanically occur as her body is uncovered; neither does her liberation happen when her body is concealed — or vice versa. The act of objectifying requires that her dignity be reduced to her physical self and treated impersonally, like an object devoid of thoughts, feelings, experiences, and consciousness. Ironically, it is exactly the kind of discourse that Miss World Muslimah engages in its quest against objectification.
As long as our bodies continue to be objectified for commercial consumption, our bodies are not our own. In male-dominated societies, which dictate that the “ideal” women look, act, and dress certain ways, pageants like Miss World and Miss Muslimah continue to reenforce socialization for generation after generation of young girls and boys. Children grow up thinking of women as endless checklists.
Miss World Muslimah is just another set of criteria to live up to; it burns bridges to gender justice instead of building them.
It sure as hell does not liberate me.
Senator Warren, speaking before Monday’s shutdown:
I come to the floor today in a state of disbelief. With millions of people out of work, with an economic recovery still far too fragile, with students and families being crushed by student loan debt, with millions of seniors desperate for their chance at one hot meal a day with meals on wheels, and million of little children pushed out of head start because of a sequester, with the country hours away from a government shutdown, and days away from a potential default on the nation’s debt: the Republicans have decided that the single most important issue facing our nation is to change the law so that employers can deny women access to birth control coverage.
In fact letting employers decide whether women can get birth control covered on their insurance plans is so important that the Republicans are willing to shutter the government and potentially tank the economy over whether women can get access to birth control in the year 2013. Not the year 1913. The year two thousand thirteen. I have a daughter and I have granddaughters and I will never vote to let a group of backward-looking ideologues cut women’s access to birth control. We have lived in that world and we are not going back, not ever. This assault on birth control is just one more piece of the ongoing Republican assault on the orderly functioning of our government and the orderly functioning of our economy. In effect the Republicans are trying to take the government and the economy hostage, threatening serious damage to both, unless the president agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act. I see things like this and I wonder what alternate realities some of my colleagues are living in, so let me be very clear about what is happening in the real world. The ACA is the law of the land. Millions of people are counting on it. People who need health care coverage, people who need insurance policies that don’t disappear just when they are at their sickest, women will get insurance coverage for birth control. The law is here to stay and it will stay.
Earlier today the Senate emphasized that reality by flatly rejecting the Republican’s newest ransom note just as we did last week. Now we are just hours from the government running out of money. We have to fix the sequester because of all the obstruction; we have unfinished budgets because of all the obstruction; we haven’t even passed a single appropriations bill because of all the obstruction. The least we can do, the bare minimum that we can do, would be to pass a continuing resolution to keep the doors open and the lights on. We can ensure that over a million federal workers aren’t simply sent home for no reason. We can avoid a government shutdown but the Republicans have refused to do even that. They have continued to threaten to shutter the government unless the president agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act. The Senate rejected that position twice yet the Republican response has been to continue to threaten to shut the government down. These threats may continue but they are not working and they will never work because this is democracy and in a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t win their fights through elections, can’t win their fight in congress, can’t win their fights with the presidency, and can’t win their fights in the courts. For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left, a last-gasp for those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy. The time has come for those legislators who cannot cope with the reality of our democracy to get out of the way so that those of us in both parties who understand that the American people sent us here to work for them can get back to work solving real problems faced by the American people. We have a real work to do and that’s what we should be doing.
We are the mothers and the grandmothers, sisters and daughters, nieces and aunts, who stand together to care for all generations across our professions, affiliations and national identities.
We are teachers and scientists, farmers and fishers, healers and helpers, workers and business peoples, writers and artists, decision-makers and activists, leaders and thinkers. We work in the halls of power, the halls of faith and the halls of our homes.
We are gathering to raise our voices to advocate for an Earth-respecting cultural narrative, one of “restore, respect, replenish” and to replace the narrative of “domination, depletion and destruction” of nature.
We are committed to a transition from a future of peril to a future of promise, to rally the women around the world to join together in action at all levels until the climate crisis is solved.
The online harassment of women exemplifies twenty-first century behavior that profoundly harms women yet too often remains overlooked and even trivialized. This harassment includes rape threats, doctored photographs portraying women being strangled, postings of women’s home addresses alongside suggestions that they are interested in anonymous sex, and technological attacks that shut down blogs and websites. It impedes women’s full participation in online life, often driving them offline, and undermines their autonomy, identity, dignity, and well-being. But the public and law enforcement routinely marginalize women’s experiences, deeming the harassment harmless teasing that women should expect, and tolerate, given the internet’s Wild West norms of behavior.
The trivialization of phenomena that profoundly affect women’s basic freedoms is nothing new. No term even existed to describe sexual harassment of women in the workplace until the 1970s. The refusal to recognize harms uniquely influencing women has an important social meaning—it conveys the message that abusive behavior toward women is acceptable and should be tolerated.
— Danielle Keats Citron, Professor of Law, University of Maryland School of Law in “Law’s Expressive In Combating Cyber Gender Harassment”, Michigan Law Review, Nov. 29, 2009
It’s good to see women attorneys who are increasingly focusing on this issue. The 2007 attacks on Women’s Space are cited here.
Update: Earlier today, I posted biographical information for each of the signatories to this open statement — this is a very impressive gathering of women! — but I have (reluctantly) removed this now out of concern over whether these women would want this information posted and over concerns about accuracy. I may try to contact all of them and ask them whether they would be willing to have biographical information about them posted here. I wish it could have stayed! But it’s best to be cautious. — Heart
Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Criticism of “Gender”
An open statement from 37 radical feminists from five countries.
August 12, 2013
We, the undersigned 1960s radical feminists and current activists, have been
concerned for some time about the rise within the academy and mainstream media
of “gender theory,” which avoids naming men and the system of male supremacy
as the beneficiaries of women’s oppression. Our concern changed to alarm when
we learned about threats and attacks, some of them physical, on individuals and
organizations daring to challenge the currently fashionable concept of gender.
Recent developments: A U.S. environmental organization that also calls itself
radical feminist is attacked for its political analysis of gender. Feminist conferences
in the U.K., U.S. and Canada are driven from their contracted locations for asserting
the right of women to organize for their liberation separately from men, including
M>F (male to female) transgendered people.
Deep Green Resistance (DGR) reports1 that queer activists defaced its published
materials and trans activists threatened individual DGR members with arson, rape
and murder. Bookstores are pressured not to carry DGR’s work and its speaking
events are cancelled after protests by queer/transgender activists. At “RadFem”
conferences in London2, Portland3 and Toronto4, trans activists accuse scheduled
speakers of hate speech and/or being transphobic because they dare to analyze
gender from a feminist political perspective. Both MF transgender people and
“men’s rights” groups, operating separately but using similar language, demand
to be included in the Rad Fem 2013 conference in London called to fight against
women’s oppression and for liberation.
How did we slide back to the point where radical feminists have to fight for the
right to hold women-only conferences and criticize conventional “gender roles”?
The rise of Gender Studies may be part of the problem. Language is a wonderful
human tool for thinking, understanding, cooperation and progress, so it makes
sense that when people fight for freedom and justice against those who are
oppressing them, the use and misuse of words—of language—becomes part of
the struggle. Originally the term “gender” may have been a useful way around
the communication problem that the word “sex” in English has several meanings.
“Sex” refers to the reproduction of a species, as well as acts bringing about sexual
pleasure AND the simply descriptive division of many plants and animals into
two observable categories—the “sexes.” Using “gender” instead of “sex” allows
feminists to make it clear that all kinds of social relations and differences between
the sexes were unjust, not just sexual relations between the sexes. “Gender”
also covers the artificial, socially-created differences between the human sexes,
the overwhelming majority of which are politically, economically and culturally
disadvantageous to female humans.
“Gender Studies” has displaced the grassroots women’s liberation analysis
of the late 1960s and early 1970s. An early embrace of the neutral idea of
“sex roles” as a major cause of women’s oppression by some segments of the
women’s liberation movement has morphed into the new language—but the
same neutrality—of “gender roles” and “gender oppression.” With a huge
boost from the “new” academic theory coming out of those programs, heavily
influenced by post-modernism, “gender identity” has overwhelmed—when
not denying completely—the theory that biological women are oppressed and
exploited as a class by men and by capitalists due to their reproductive capacity.
Women often can no longer organize against our oppression in women-only
groups without being pilloried with charges of transphobia. But, as a UKbased
radical feminist “Fire in My Belly” wrote in her blog, “Radical feminists
recognise that an individual’s ‘gender identity’ cannot, in a fair society, be
allowed to ride roughshod over biological sex, which cannot be changed.”5
We do not view traditional sex/gender roles as natural or permanent. In fact,
criticizing these “roles” is valid and necessary for women’s liberation. Radical
feminist analysis and activism focus on unequal power relations between men
and women under male supremacy, with real, material benefits going to the
oppressor group (men) at the expense of the oppressed group (women).
The system of male supremacy comes down hard on non-conforming men and
women, as movingly described online by members of the trans community.
While switching gender identity may alleviate some problems on an individual
level, it is not a political solution. Furthermore, a strong case can be made that
it undermines a solution for all, even for the transitioning person, by embracing
and reinforcing the cultural, economic and political tracking of “gender” rather
than challenging it. Transitioning is a deeply personal issue associated with a
lot of pain for many people but it is not a feminist strategy or even individual
feminist stance. Transitioning, by itself, does not aid in the fight for equal
power between the sexes.
There will have to be many advances in science and technology before the
bodies of female humans will no longer be needed for the complicated
and dangerous jobs of supplying eggs and gestating and bearing ongoing
generations to carry on the work of the world. There will also, no doubt, be
struggles to ensure that women are not oppressed in new ways under these
Not all feminists agree that ‘gender’ should be done away with, nor do
we agree with one another on pornography or prostitution or a radical
transformation of our economy or a number of other issues. But our movement
has a history of airing serious differences in speeches and distributed position
papers, not in physical attacks, threats of bodily harm and censorship of such
analyses. DGR and RadFem stood up for the right to think, speak and write
freely on the question of gender.
Although we may not be in total agreement with DGR’s analysis of gender, we
welcome it as an important contribution to radical feminism and commend
the courage it has taken to stand against the threats and attacks it brought
upon them. We defend the right of RadFem to exclude men, including M>F
trans people, from their feminist meetings and to invite speakers who analyze
gender from a feminist perspective. We also commend CounterPunch online
for publishing the DGR material, which brought similar attacks for transphobia
upon them, including from Jacobin magazine online.
We look forward to freedom from gender. The “freedom for gender”
movement, whatever the intentions of its supporters, is reinforcing the culture
and institutions of gender that are oppressing women. We reject the notion
that this analysis is transphobic. We uphold the radical feminist principle that
women are oppressed by male supremacy in both its individual and institutional
forms. We continue to support the radical feminist strategy of organizing an
independent power base and speaking the basic truths of our experience out of
earshot of the oppressor. We hold these principles and strategies essential for
advancing toward women’s liberation.
Initiated by Carol Hanisch (NY), Kathy Scarbrough (NJ), Ti-Grace Atkinson (MA), and Kathie Sarachild (NY)
Also signed by Roberta Salper (MA), Marjorie Kramer (VT), Jean Golden (MI), Marisa Figueiredo (MA), Maureen Nappi (NY), Sonia Jaffe Robbins (NY), Tobe Levin (Germany), Marge Piercy (MA), Barbara Leon (CA), Anne Forer (AZ), Anselma Dell’Olio (Italy), Carla Lesh (NY), Laura X (CA), Gabrielle Tree (Canada), Christine Delphy (France), Pam Martens (FL), Nellie Hester Bailey (NY), Colette Price (NY), Candi Churchhill (FL), Peggy Powell Dobbins (GA), Annie Tummino (NY), Margo Jefferson (NY), Jennifer Sunderland (NY), Michele Wallace (NJ), Allison Guttu (NY), Sheila Michaels (MO), Carol Giardina (NY), Nicole Hardin (FL), Merle Hoffman (NY), Linda Stein (NY), Margaret Stern (NY), Faith Ringgold (NJ), Joanne Steele (NY)
The wise saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword”: It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. That is why they are blasting schools every day because they were and they are afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society…
Today, I am focusing on women’s rights and girls’ education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time we will do it by ourselves. …We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.” — Malala Yousafzai, July 12, 2013, before the U.N.
Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me.
Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohamed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah…And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.
Womyn … who have been disappeared by assumptions. Womyn who were born and assigned female, but who present in ways the world determines as masculine/not womanly. Womyn who are assumed to be transmen, when they do not identify as men/transmen. Womyn who expand the possibilities of what it means to be born and assigned female. You are wanted. You are loved. And we want you to know it.
I came out in 1990. I was sixteen years old. The term “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” gave me a certain power as I walked the hallways of my rural high school with my favorite girl. It spoke to a knowing that I had community, and that I had decided to not be ashamed – even as said girl and I got shoved around, verbally harassed and punished by our parents. It provided me with a slogan that made me feel like I had strength in numbers. It gave me a framework to understand and celebrate my outsider status.
That was more than half my lifetime ago now. Since then, I have been deeply involved in the issues of my LGBT community. I have spoken on LGBT panels at high schools and in churches. I have done AIDS outreach in bars and on railroad tracks. I have organized rallies. I have attended rallies. I have donated money. I have attended too many vigils for our dead. I have sat through endless coalition meetings. I have celebrated with you. I have mourned with you. I have shown up. I am not bringing this up for the sake of being self-congratulatory. I am bringing this up to say that this community raised me. And to say that I never imagined I would find myself standing on what appears to be the wrong side of the line with this community– especially as it relates to our shared and unique LGBT liberation movements. Then I fell in love with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
Like many women who love the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I have been deeply troubled over what is happening within the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival community. Yes, we are wrestling with a definition of woman that upholds the significance of socialized experience as well as self-identification. No, this has not been easy. We are a community of women with a lot of varying thoughts, beliefs and convictions. We do our best to listen to one another respectfully. We have been called upon by women inside of our community and by the larger community to examine the boundaries of our autonomous space. We are doing that, pretty much 24 hours a day. I can guarantee you that no other conscious community is working harder or thinking more about the politics of women’s autonomous space than the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival community. We have engaged each other in heated conversations, we have brought one another to tears at times, and some of us have made the very hard decision to step away while some of us have made an even deeper commitment to the sustainability of the festival regardless of our position on the inclusion of trans identified women at the festival. In the context of these interactions, there is a general understanding that while two women may not agree on this topic (or the myriad of others that have come up over the years),that each woman has a common love and respect for the festival and a desire to contribute to the community in a way that will benefit everyone involved. I have friends who have told me that while they may disagree with me, that they love and respect me all the more for my participation and voice in our discussions. I feel their love and respect. I believe them. And I love and respect them back.
For the most part, I have chosen to engage with friends and in face-to-face conversations with people in my community rather than lend my voice to the multitude of threads and “debates” about the festival that are taking place all over the Internet. I have had a couple experiences recently that have changed my mind.
The first of these experiences was reading an article that was recently published in “The Advocate” entitled “Is It Wrong to Play Michfest?” In this article, the producer of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival was referred to as a “liar” and compared to George Wallace. There is a loud voice in our LGBT community that is actively calling for the villainization and defamation of a woman who has devoted her entire adult life and career to building up, creating and sustaining a place of safety, strength and celebration of the women who make up a large percentage of the LGBT community. The effort to erase her work and reduce her legacy to that of a public enemy of the LGBT community, a “bigot” and a“false feminist” (are you kidding me?!) is ridiculous, cruel, appalling and simply not acceptable. Whether you agree with her feminist politics or not, Lisa Vogel deserves a whole hell of a lot more respect than that.
Then I received a series of private messages on Facebook in response to a statement I publically posted on a page called “Allies in Understanding” The first message simply said, “I am anti-Michigan and I did not like your post.” Another that said “Not at all” and another claiming “We will succeed at tearing that place down”. It is relevant to mention that nowhere in my post did I even make mention of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. It is not the first time I have heard the term “anti-Michigan” or seen threats about “tearing it down”. Those messages did get me thinking though and they ultimately inspired me to write this letter.
Yes, this is addressed to the person who sent me those messages, but I am also addressing this to the larger LGBT community. Why? Because recently there has been a tremendous amount of very bad behavior that is being celebrated, supported and carried out in the name of LGBT activism. I am addressing this to the larger community because so many of you have entitled yourself to weigh in on the current controversy surrounding the festival, but almost no one (outside of the Michfest community) has been compelled to speak up when someone has made threats of violence or rape against the women in our shared community – under the name of “equality” and “civil rights”. People in our own LGBT community are calling lesbians “irrelevant”, “stupid”, “outdated” and “un-evolved”. We are being told that we deserve to “be beheaded” and “raped by woman-born-dicks”. We are being invited to “evolve or die”, “fuck off” and to “go die in a fire” and so much more. This abuse is happening in public forums on the Internet and in the comment sections of mainstream LGBT news outlets. No one is saying a damn thing about it, unless it is to say that we have brought this upon ourselves by our own fear and bigotry. Part of the painful irony of these hateful messages is they all come in the name of gaining entrance to a space where women have gone to seek refuge from this kind of hateful messaging, let alone very real threats that often accompany it. My dear LGBT community, how is this acceptable you? Your silence is a betrayal. Your silence makes you complicit in the damage and injury that is being caused. I am holding you accountable.
To reduce and neglect the scope and significance of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and the contribution it has made to the lives of thousands of women in the LGBT community is unjust and irresponsible. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is far more than the sum of this current hurtful and divisive situation. For 38 years, The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been a constant evolving exercise in radical hospitality. For thousands upon thousands of women, it has been a place of acceptance, safety and love unparallel to any other place in the world. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is a place that has devoted its entire existence to building community, promoting female artists and empowering women and girls. It has always been and continues to be a place that houses and celebrates all forms of female gender presentation and female bodies. It is a place that has taken itself to task on the issues of racism, classism, ableism and ageism. It is a music festival that has repeatedly forgone corporate sponsors and still manages to provide the nutritious meals that are included in the price of a festival ticket for every single woman who attends. This all-inclusive ticket also entitles every woman on the land to community health care, childcare, emotional support, and workshops. ASL interpreters interpret every set of every single stage at Michfest. Every communal space is wheelchair accessible, made so by women who get on their hands and knees in the blazing sun (or pouring rain) and drive nails into the ground through upside down carpets. Great effort is taken to make sure that every woman on that land knows that she is wanted, that she is welcome and that she is precious among us. It continues to be a place that prioritizes the environment and care for the land that the festival is built on. Every single piece of garbage gets picked up by hand. In the months between festivals there is not a trace of festivity left behind. I almost resisted the urge to contrast this to some of the disgusting messes I have seen in the wake of some of our Dyke Marches and Pride Celebrations, but I will not. We take pride in cleaning up after ourselves. Yes, we have a great time in those woods, but oh how this community has worked and continues to do so.
I am not ashamed of my love for the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I am not ashamed of the community of women who embody the spirit of it. There is too much to love, too much to be proud of, too much at stake and too much to work toward still. To me, a larger LGBT community that does not comprehend or acknowledge the value of a place like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has not evolved itself out of the need for it. The erasure of one of the most radical and revolutionary spaces on this earth is not a revolution I will ever embrace. To work towards the extinction of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival with no regard for her legacy, complexity and relevance or history is short sited, selfish and careless. I will work so hard to see that this festival survives any best efforts to “tear it down”. I will do this with my words, my actions and my checkbook, just like this community has taught me to do when something matters deeply.-
YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO REPOST THIS IS ITS ENTIRETY-
On Friday, three years after a Collin County jury acquitted the Leshers and their employee of aggravated sexual assault, a Tarrant County jury awarded the couple $13.78 million in a libel judgment. The ruling sends the message that people have the freedom to write what they please online, but they can be held accountable.
The award is the largest ever assessed in an Internet libel case, the Leshers’ attorney, Meagan Hassan, said Tuesday…
“This was clearly a vendetta,” [plaintiffs’ attorney] Hassan said. “We originally sued 178 John and Jane Does, and it all came down to two IP addresses.”…
The abuse grew so bad that the Leshers closed their businesses and moved away from Clarksville, where they had lived for more than 20 years, Hassan said. Mark Lesher now practices law in Mount Pleasant and Texarkana, and his wife has given up her salon. Continue reading
Even among ourselves we fear that not kneeling at the motherhood shrine will make us look weak and incompetent and unfeeling. We are afraid that if we speak the truth of our lives as mothers, we will find ourselves standing alone, the unnatural, scorned exception, that if we were to tell what agony motherhood has been for us, women of all political persuasions might fall upon us in rage, so invested are women in keeping the fathers' last guilty secret: that making motherhood horrific while brainwashing us to believe instead that it is beatific, they have effectively secured our minds and hearts, our cooperation. --Sonia Johnson, Wildfire: Igniting the She/Volution
To the casual observer, it might appear as though motherhood struggles are indistinguishable from any other difficulties women face because they are women. Feminists have, after all, always confronted wage inequities, job discrimination, mistreatment of women by doctors and the medical establishment, injustices in the court system, exploitation of women as unpaid care providers for children, the elderly and the sick, and as caretakers of home and hearth, and the lack of social and economic support for older women who have spent all of their lives serving their families without being paid for it. All women have experienced these forms of discrimination or been directly affected by them in some way.
But mothers experience specific kinds of discrimination because they are mothers–discrimination those who have elected not to be mothers do not face. This discrimination and the subsequent inequality of mothers compared with those who are not mothers is largely invisible, hidden as it is beneath the motherhood mystique, the aura Western culture has created around the idea of motherhood. It goes unnamed and often unacknowledged by mothers, as well, fearful as each one is that she is the only one to struggle as she does, that other mothers know something she doesn’t, that to speak out might equal admitting she is a bad mother, suspect, better take a good look at her kids, maybe they are abused or neglected. And besides, mothers love their children, or if they don’t love them as they should, they know they are supposed to. They don’t want anyone–particularly their children–to suspect their capacity for maternal love is not what it ought to be. And they don’t want to be despised and feared the way mothers who are not good and loving are despised and feared under male supremacy. And so mothers are silent. Continue reading
The poor people who were dropped from cash assistance here, mostly single mothers, talk with surprising openness about the desperate, and sometimes illegal, ways they make ends meet. They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners — all with children in tow…
Dear Jane Alexander,
I just spoke with a young man from your office, who informed me that I had been chosen to be one of twelve recipients of the National Medal for the Arts at a ceremony at the White House in the fall. I told him at once that I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration. I want to clarify to you what I meant by my refusal.
Anyone familiar with my work from the early Sixties on knows that I believe in art’s social presence–as breaker of official silences, as voice for those whose voices are disregarded, and as a human birthright. In my lifetime I have seen the space for the arts opened by movements for social justice, the power of art to break despair. Over the past two decades I have witnessed the increasingly brutal impact of racial and economic injustice in our country.
There is no simple formula for the relationship of art to justice. But I do know that art–in my own case the art of poetry–means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage. The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate. A President cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored. I know you have been engaged in a serious and disheartening struggle to save government funding for the arts, against those whose fear and suspicion of art is nakedly repressive. In the end, I don’t think we can separate art from overall human dignity and hope. My concern for my country is inextricable from my concerns as an artist. I could not participate in a ritual which would feel so hypocritical to me.
there will be no compensation
it was of your free will that you stood
on the frontline
these are the rules of war
remember that you fought for your people
i know the freedom’s been hard won
but as you weep
remember that you
“Gertrude Beasley’s memoir of growing up dirt poor in and around the Bible Belt town of Abilene, My First Thirty Years, was released in 1925 by Contact Press in Paris. That’s the same press that published James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. H.L. Mencken hailed Beasley’s book as one of the best coming-of-age books ever …
“Despite these accolades, her memoir is largely unknown. Its violent and sexually deviant material caused it to be banned in Britain, where Beasley was living at the time. Most copies were destroyed by Scotland Yard and U.S. Customs. The few that made it to Texas were mostly yanked off shelves by the Texas Rangers, probably on the orders of prominent Texans maligned in her book. Then the author vanished. She was 35. Continue reading
23. (Supplied by Amanda in Part I; I don’t want it to get lost in the comments) Women take care of men when they are belittled, disrespected, and assaulted by polygamy forced upon them “in the name of God” and perpetuated through a patriarchal status quo of ignorance and fear. (In this instance I (Heart) would say they are indentured servants or slaves, forced to take care of men.)
24. Women take care of men by giving men and boys the best of the food they prepare.
25. Women take care of men by, when food is being dished out, leaving the best or the biggest portions for the men and boys.
26. Women take care of men when, if there isn’t enough for both the men and the boys and them, they say, “I’m not hungry.” Continue reading
1. Heterosexually-partnered women continue, as their foremothers did, to take care of men and boys by doing far more than their fair share of the housework, childcare, cooking and other household duties (buying gifts, preparing for holidays, sending thank you notes, organizing family get-togethers).
2. Heterosexual women sexually service men and boys. They have sex they don’t want to have and they have babies they don’t want to have.
3. Huge numbers of women still spend hours and days and years of their lives on their appearance with the goal of taking care of men’s objectification-of-women agendas. They diet, develop eating disorders, have cosmetic surgeries, tan, pluck, shave, wax. They wear makeup, uncomfortable clothing, uncomfortable shoes. Their taking care of men in these ways also takes care of the men who run the beauty and fashion industry.
4. Women take care of the men in their lives by keeping men’s secrets. They don’t disclose or challenge male use of pornography, attendance at strip clubs, participation in the prostitution of women, sexual harrassment, objectification of women. Sometimes they do not disclose or challenge sexual molestation, incest, and inappropriate sexual behaviors.
5. Women take care of the men in their lives by cleaning up the messes men make– all kinds of messes: physical messes left in the house and yard; emotional messes which result from neglectful or abusive parenting or abandonment of children; social messes which result from ignored or neglected invitations, birthdays, holidays, failures of communication; financial messes created by irresponsible buying or failure to keep records. Continue reading