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Radical Feminism, Peacemaking and Transgender Politics

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.

Asides and Random Thoughts

  • I wonder how many of the search engine terms I'm receiving wondering about my divorce, or whether I've divorced, are coming from the conservative folks in my old world, and how many are coming from the feminist and progressive folks I've encountered in recent years. Ah well.  In response, I am divorced.  Rick and I separated in October of 2008 and our divorce was final in 2010.  I  intend to remain single.   Rick and I remain devoted to our children, whom we co-parent.  So there's your answer.

"It does not take a long time," said madame, "for an earthquake to swallow a town.
"Eh well! Tell me how long it takes to prepare the earthquake?"
"A long time, I suppose," said Defarge.
"But when it is ready, it takes place, and grinds to pieces everything before it. In the meantime, it is always preparing, though it is not seen or heard. That is your consolation. Keep it."
-- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities in Letters from a War Zone, Writings 1976-1989 by Andrea Dworkin

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