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Pre-2008 Posts

Feminist Alliances

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There are a lot of feminist women who are anti-pornography, anti-prostitution, anti-SM like me.  Unfortunately, they are also racists.  They don't have any clue that they are.  They think they aren't.  They rattle on cluelessly and say and do things which are hurtful, ignorant, destructive, then when they're called out, they circle the wagons around one another and peep and mutter about all of those oversensitive women of color looking to play the race card or white do-gooders sucking up to them. 

How can I justify hanging with them when I see that what they do hurts women?

There are a lot of women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM like me, but they are also anti-child and/or anti-mother, meaning they are anti-woman and anti-girl, as well.  They call girl children names, girl babies names, mothers names, they are dismissive about the plight of mothers and their children, the oppression of mothers as mothers and children, and when they are called out, they get defensive.  How can I possibly endorse the feminist work of those who hurt women in this way? 

There are women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but unlike me, they eat meat.  I think eating meat is wholly inconsistent with anti-subordination, anti-dominance-hierarchy feminism. I think meat-eating harms the earth, harms people, creatures, trees and vegetation on the earth, harms the waters, the oceans, and creates hunger and poverty for Third World people.  Can I possibly ally myself with meat-eating women?

There are quite a few women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but they are capitalists, Republicans, WTO-supporters; they are in the military or they work for the military-industrial complex or defense contractors or for agribiz, or they defend some or all of the above.  This makes them part of the problem, not part of the solution, doesn't it?  Don't they derive their sustenance, their living, their wages from the acts of men who are making war on the earth or exploiting the earth's people, creatures and lands?  Can I walk alongside them without compromising my integrity?  How so.

There are women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but they are able-ist.  They routinely use terms like "leftard," "retard," "fucktard," "lame," "psycho," "blind," "deaf," as insults, and when someone calls them out, they write seventeen paragraphs about the evils of "P.C." language and continue on to use language which makes the world a hostile place for people with disabilities.   How, in good conscience, can I consider them allies?

There are quite a few women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but they support the cosmetics and fashion industry.  They tan, they buy and use makeup, they get manicures and pedicures and patronize spas, they get plastic surgeries, waxings, color their hair, they buy and wear the latest fashions, they read Cosmo and Glamourand Vogue, and in so doing, they grease the wheels of the patriarchal machinery responsible for anorexia, bulimia, the cosmetic surgery industry, the fashion industry, all of which machinery serves to perpetuate, reify, institutionalize, and commercialize male supremacist beauty standards. Can I justify walking alongside them?  People might think I approve of their politics, might they not? They might think I'm endorsing or affirming behaviors and institutions which are anti-woman and misogynist.

There are women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but they are anti-choice.  How can I work with women like this without compromising my integrity?

There are many women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but they are lesbophobic.  They don't think they are.  When you observe that they are and call them out, they get angry and defensive. But what they say and do and think makes life more difficult for lesbian women, and life is difficult enough for lesbian women, so how can I justify being an ally to them?

There are many women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but they are heterosexually married, and so they are supporters of the supreme and central institution of male heterosupremacy.  What if people think I endorse or approve of heterosexual marriage because of my friendship with them?

There are many women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but they partner with, or defend, men whose behaviors are destructive and inexcusable in my view, and in so doing they make it much easier for those men to continue to hurt women.  I'll have to leave them behind. What alliance can I in good conscience make with women who lend their support of any kind to misogynist men?

There are women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but they are classist.  They hire nannies, maids, nail technicians, gardeners, who are poor, marginalized, immigrants, women of color, and they pay them poorly compared with what they, themselves earn, compared with the resources available to them.  In so doing they participate in the exploitation of immigrants, people of color, and the poor and are instrumental in the perpetuation of white supremacy and Western capitalism.  If I make an alliance with them, won't I be viewed as selling out?

There are women who are anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-SM, like me, but they are cultural imperialists, New Agers, stealing the rituals and traditions of First Nations people, taking what belongs to them, selling it, commercializing it, violating what is sacred, participating in cultural genocide.  If I am kind to women like this, won't this be viewed as affirmation or approval? 

There are women who do anti-racism, anti-classism, anti-meat-eating, anti-cultural-imperialism, pro-choice, pro-mother, pro-child, anti-military, anti-capitalism work, work on behalf of the disabled, pro-lesbian rights work, work with eating-disordered girls, body acceptance work, but they are pro-porn, pro-prostitution, pro-sm.  How can I, in good conscience, be friends with women like this?  Might not anti-porn, anti-prostitution, anti-sm feminists find fault with me, see this as compromise?

Matter of fact, a few just might. 

But, you know, it's all connected.  It's all connected.  It is all important.  It all matters to women.  All of it.

If some old friend appears when I'm posting to the internet somewhere besides my own website and boards, and says, "Hi, Heart, yada yada, small talk,"  I might know ahead of time she is fits within at least one of the above categories of people I described above. Should I fear beneath her friendly greeting lurks some darker motivation, some interest in using me to bolster her feminist cred amongst women who share my politics and not her own?  

Or, should I assume that there's a place for generosity and camaraderie amongst all feminist women, although not a one of us (at least no one I've met so far) meets the standards set forth in that list there.

In general, this last — not always, but most of the time — guides my encounters with feminists.

If kindness, generosity, acceptance, friendship, patience with, appreciation of, a woman equals my endorsement of all of her politics, my stamp of approval on everything she says and does, I'll have to kick 99 percent of the feminist women in my life to the curb. 

I'm unwilling to do that.  I think that kind of behavior weakens the already-suffering connections amongst feminist women.  I think it is shortsighted and even arrogant in its insistence that the feminist work that matters most to me is the only work, or the most important work, and that other kinds of feminist work matters less, should matter less, or is  less personally or professionally costly, than my own.  Life has taught me that when we, as women, stand up to ANY institution of male heterosupremacy — not just pornography, not just prostitution, not just sadomasochism, ANY: capitalism, racism, classism, the military, war, agribiz, the meat industry, patriarchal medicine, big business, psychology, the institutions of marriage and the family, the pro-life industry, the fashion, beauty and diet industry, heteronormativity, patriarchal religion, in any meaningful way, we are going to suffer for it.  We are going to pay for it.  Male supremacy will take us out if it can. 

That being so, I am going to continue to seek out ways to connect with feminist women, even when I think they're wrong, because there hasn't been a feminist woman I've met yet, including myself, who hasn't been wrong, sometime, about something, or who can't be found to be wrong at any point in time, about something.  I personally find it almost impossible to work closely with feminists who tolerate racist, anti-child or anti-mother, sentiments, even if they are anti-pornography, anti-prostitution, anti-sadomasochism like me.  I wouldn't accuse them of being "used" by racists or anti-child or anti-mother feminists, though, or by the institutions which being racist or anti-child or anti-mother shore up, just because they are friendly with women who evidence little understanding of racial issues or of what it is to be a mother or a child under heteropatriarchy.  I just recognize we're not on the same page right now, and keep looking to find my closest community with women who do share my sensibilities, while continuing to find whatever ways I can to connect with all feminist women, and all women, period, even those whose words and behavior trouble me in some way.

Connections with feminist women are important — real life connections, internet connections, any and all connections.  I cannot function emotionally, spiritually, or physically without feminist community. There is no feminist community which exists on the earth in which women are not compromised in some or most of the ways I've described, or many more. That being the case, my own decision is to connect as much, as often, and as well as I can, with as many feminist women, and women, period as I can, and to urge other women to connect as often and as well as they can, too.  Our ability to forge solidarity as feminists must begin with some willingness to connect across imperfection, naivete, stubbornness, complicity, accommodation, compromise and difference, because of some or all of these, we have all been guilty sometime. I just think without this kind of  expansive solidarity, real  revolution will continue to elude us.

Cheryl

Discussion

7 thoughts on “Feminist Alliances

  1. Bravo! I really liked this post, it captures perfectly what I have been feeling of late.

    Posted by Trula | April 4, 2006, 1:36 pm
  2. Hey, thanks, Trula! And now I will blogroll you. 🙂

    Cheryl

    Posted by womensspace | April 4, 2006, 3:31 pm
  3. Awesome post, Cheryl. Thanks so much.

    Posted by drublood | April 4, 2006, 5:37 pm
  4. Thank you!!!!

    I’ve been dealing with the same issue, esp the racism issue, for a few years now. It’s soooooo difficult to work with women like that. So much that I quit an organization that I gave 5 years of blood, sweat, and tears.

    Posted by Roni | April 4, 2006, 6:45 pm
  5. Beautifully written!

    I hate to say I see myself in that first half. I don’t completely write people off when their politics don’t match mine, but it does colour my view of them. I even have issues when my vegetarian guy goes fishing. I can’t help thinking, “What does it say about him that he’ll happily torture a fish for a photo-op?” I stay connected, of course; I crawl over the barriers my mind erects so immediately that I’m barely conscious of it. I’m working on pre-empting those walls.

    All in good time.

    Posted by Sage | April 6, 2006, 2:04 pm
  6. Hi. This is an interesting post. I’m a guy who was raised to be a feminist. Weirdly some of the vilest racists I’ve met at work have been women, and one was lesbian.

    Last week, I visited another feminist blog that was discussing the Duke rape case. The author was upset that race was mentioned. She went on to say that the rape was strictly a women’s issue, and if the victim had been white there would not have been any interest in her plight. I was shocked. The treatment of African American and Native American women in America is inherently linked to both race and sex. DNA surveys show that 30 to 40% of all African American men have Y-chromosomes traceable to Europe. Such mixed-race ancestry was not, for the most part, born from loving, consensual relationships. Moreover, given that for some time, CNN could have rightly been called the Missing Attractive White Women’s network, the feminist’s claim that the rape of a white woman would generate less media coverage was horrific in its deliberate ignorance.

    So, what bothers me about racism amongst feminist is that it reflect the willingness to demand equality for themselves but accepting discrimination against others either explicitly or tacitly.

    Posted by noah | April 11, 2006, 4:38 am

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