As those of you who have been patiently waiting have observed, putting the First Carnival of Radical Feminists together became far more intense and complex — and time-consuming — a project for me than I had anticipated it would be. It was important to me to at least attempt to lay as solid a foundation for future radical feminist carnivals as I could, to establish a framework which would ground what we post to these carnivals in the work of radical feminist visionaries, leaders, pioneers, herstory and theory-making while continuing to make room for creativity, challenges, and new and different ideas. I wanted women reading to find as many opportunities to connect and engage with what we are offering as a community as possible, not only radical feminist women, but all women and men of good intentions and good will, no matter what their experiences with, or knowledge of, radical feminism have been until now. At the same time, I wanted what is offered to be, again, grounded in the work and thought of radical feminist women.
Radical Feminism is and Always has been a Grass Roots Movement
Radical feminism has always been grass roots. It was conceived and birthed in women connecting with women in natural, everyday, ways – on the job, in the home, on college campuses, in the course of various kinds of political activism – for the purpose of talking about their lives. As relationships were created and women began to care deeply for one another, it was natural for them to begin to support and help one another in their common attempts to make sense of the way, as women, they had all been mistreated in the world, as well as in their attempts to recreate the world in a woman-centered way, to make the world increasingly friendly to female persons, allowing for girls and women to be fully human, to create, work, lead, organize, love, and live in freedom and safety.
So what exactly do radical feminists DO? And what have they done?
Out of these relationships, and this mutual support, organizations, institutions, and legislation ultimately emerged or were created by radical feminists which have revolutionized the United States and the world in my own lifetime to include:
domestic violence shelters and crisis lines;
rape crisis lines and centers;
laws forbidding sexual harassment;
laws which opened doors for women to be employed in previously male-only occupations, professions, and other pursuits;
legislation which made room and space for girl and woman athletes;
laws which, for the first time, forbade the rape and battering of wives by their husbands;
laws which allowed for the dissolution of marriage without women having to prove in male courtrooms that they “deserved” their freedom and which began to force change in laws around custody and child support;
organizations which challenged the regulation and medicalization of women’s physical bodies: the natural childbirth movement, the home birth movement, breastfeeding support, the midwifery movement, challenges to psychiatric, pharmaceutical and medical abuse of girls and women, women’s right to decide if, when, where and how she would become pregnant or would terminate a pregnancy or would give birth;
organizations which challenged beauty pageants, the world of “fashion”, pornography, sex trafficking, the prostituting of women, women’s ritual servitude and ritual mutilations of various kinds throughout the world designed to force women to serve men;
organizations which supported women whose decision it was to live lives separate from men—to love women only, work with and for women only, spend their entire lives serving women, and to create woman-only families and communities;
legislation and advocacy which resulted in rape being understood in international courts as a war crime, a crime against humanity, rather than as collateral damage of war;
legislation and advocacy which allows battered, raped, or incested immigrant girls and women to seek and be assured asylum in the United States and some other countries, recognizing they are refugees.
By and large, it is radical feminism and radical feminists which are and were responsible for all of these many gains for women. When someone asks –- usually adversarially and usually as part of some ongoing campaign to discredit radical feminists –- what radical feminists actually do besides theorize, I can only marvel at the success male heterosupremacy has had in some quarters in managing to conceal or make invisible this revolution which radical feminists really have made in our time, a revolution which has benefited all women in ways which are too numerous to even begin to list and which is ongoing, despite massive, concerted, ongoing attempts to turn the clock back to the days when women were the property of men. I know, too, that it must be difficult for young people to imagine days I remember so well, when as women we lived without the benefit of anything on the list above.
I think it’s important to keep this very real work, this visible evidence and fruit of the blood, sweat and tears of thousands of hardworking women — who did what they did for love, not money, at their own expense — in mind in reading this first Carnival of Radical Feminists and all of the succeeding Carnivals of Radical Feminists, because this is the foundation and framework which women have built, and upon which we continue to build. Our work is real and solid and is grounded in the work of women who came before who also built what is real and solid, sometimes with their bare hands, from nothing, at great personal cost. All of us, as women, benefit from this work. All of us. We are part of a very proud herstory.
I would like to post a few quotes which I believe provide important context and, again, grounding for all of the links in this Carnival of Radical Feminists. These are ideas, beliefs, values I have returned to again and again, have used again and again, posted again and again, read again and again and which have sustained me in my work on behalf of women.
Personally, I detest “vanguarditis”. I never liked it in the Left, and find it especially distasteful weaseling its way into the Women’s Movement. I think that if anything like a “vanguard” exists at all, it continually shifts and changes from group to group within a movement, depending on the specific strategies and contradictions that arise at given times, and on which groups are best equipped and placed to meet and deal with them – when and if called for by the movement as a whole… I don’t like more-radical-than-thou games any better than more-oppressed-than-thou games. I don’t like credentials games, intimidation-between-women games, or “you are who you sleep with” games. I don’t like people being judged by their class background, their sexual preference, their race, choice of religion, marital status, motherhood, or rejection of it, or any other vicious standard of categorization. I hate such judgments in the male power system, and I hate them in the Women’s Movement. If there must be judgments at all, let them be not on where a woman is coming from, but on what she is moving toward; let them be based on her seriousness, her level of risk, her commitment, her endurance.– Robin Morgan, from a speech delivered as the keynote address at the West Coast Lesbian Feminist Conference in Los Angeles in 1973
It seems to me that the great misunderstanding is that those of us in the anti-pornography movement have said we are pure, we have nothing to do with that stuff. We have never said that. None of us has ever said that. We’ve all said that we are fighting pornography because we know what it is. We are fighting for sexual equality because we’ve experienced inequality. We live in this world. We don’t live twelve feet above it. None of us that I have ever heard or seen in my life have made claims of purity, let alone avowals of Puritanism. These mischaracterizations have been really just propaganda tools. I see myself as living in this world. I know what sadomasochism is. I know what all those feelings are. I know what all the practices are. I don’t think that I am different or better or above it. What I think is that it has to change and that we do not celebrate our powerlessness and call it freedom. –Andrea Dworkin, Dworkin on Dworkin, an interview first published in the tenth birthday issue of Off Our Backs, 1986.
Amerikans, by which I mean people who live in the United States, are incredibly juvenile about social change. Robin Morgan called it “ejaculatory politics”: if it doesn’t happen right away it doesn’t happen. The Women’s Movement in this country has all the same characteristics as the culture that we live in, short-term gratification, personal fulfillment, personal advancement… Liberals and left-wing men have recolonized women around the fear of the right. This troubles me, it makes me feel like we’re really suckers. We’ve always lived in a world that was right-wing. The world always has been right-wing to women. A lot of the reasons for the growth and the ascendancy of the right have to do with the status of women. Having some sort of bunker mentality about the right wing, as if you have to protect yourself from contamination by either this political philosophy or these terrible people, is not the right way to deal with it. The right way to deal with it is through confrontation and dialogue. I see women doing a lot of political purity trips that have no content to them. They aren’t doing anything except denouncing the right. If you ask them what did you do for women yesterday, there isn’t anything; and what they could have done they didn’t do because they couldn’t do everything. In other words, I have to get myself one hundred percent perfect before I dare to do anything in the world around me to make it different. That’s just nuts. You never will be perfect. We live with our limitations, we live with our failures and I think it’s important to do whatever it is you can do and not have all of these very exquisite metaphysical excuses for not having done anything. I’m real old-fashioned that way.–Andrea Dworkin, Dworkin on Dworkin, an interview first published in the tenth birthday issue of Off Our Backs, 1986.
A lot of the battle around pornography has to do with the soul of the Women’s Movement. Is it going to be a movement for women who just want better career chances, or is it really going to deal with the way that poor women and women of color are truly exploited?
… in Minneapolis, in the live shows in that town, virtually all the women in them are women of color. I have never understood how people who claim to be leftist can ignore these facts around pornography; nevertheless they manage to do it brilliantly. What has happened is that we have broadened the base of the women’s movement enormously, but we’ve broadened it to people who don’t count. The horrible thing is that they don’t count to these white women academics who have their lists of “isms” that they’re against. They’re full of correct left-wing politics: they deplore racism, they just won’t do anything about it. They hate poverty—mostly, they don’t ever want to experience it. The fact that essentially the base of the women’s Movement has broadened because of this work on pornography is utterly meaningless to them because the women are meaningless to them. They don’t care about them.
…If you see an example of race hate that brings men to orgasm and is being sold for money, you do something about it. Are you going to live in the world of theory, or are you going to live in the world? –Andrea Dworkin, Dworkin on Dworkin, an interview first published in the tenth birthday issue of Off Our Backs, 1986.
The postmodern version of the relation between theory and practice is discourse unto death. Theory begets no practice, only more text. It proceeds as if you can deconstruct power relations by shifting their markers around in your head. Like all formal idealism, this approach… tends unselfconsciously to reproduce existing relations of dominance, in part because it is an utterly removed elite activity. On this level, all theory is a form of practice, because it either subverts or shores up existing deployments of power…. As an approach to change, it is the same as the conventional approach to the theory/practice relation: head driven, not world driven. … Social change is first thought about, then acted out. Books relate to books; heads talk to heads. Bodies do not crunch bodies or people move people. As theory, it is the de-realization of the world.
The movement for the liberation of women, including in law, moves the other way around. It is first practice, then theory. Actually, it moves this way in practice, not just in theory. Feminism was a practice long before it was a theory…We know things with our lives and live that knowledge, beyond anything any theory has yet theorized. Women’s practice of confrontation with the realities of male dominance outruns any existing theory of the possibility of consciousness or resistance. To write the theory of this practice is not to work through logical puzzles or entertaining conundra, not to fantasize utopias, not to moralize or tell people what to do. It is not to exercise authority; it does not lead practice. Its task is to engage life through developing mechanisms that identify and criticize rather than reproduce social practices of subordination, and to make tools of women’s consciousness and resistance that further a practical struggle to end inequality. This kind of theory requires humility and it requires participation. –Catharine A. MacKinnon, From Practice to Theory, or What is a White Woman Anyway?, originally in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 1991
On to the Carnival of Radical Feminists!
A central theme of this Carnival and of radical feminist work in general is the colonization of women as women: how it has happened, how we are affected by it, and how we can end it. Women are a colonized people. Colonized people are people robbed of their history, culture, pride, spirituality, roots, and their land itself, which a conqueror or oppressor seizes and then mines and exploits for his own benefit and gain. Alienated from their own culture, history, land, forced to identify with their oppressors, to pretend that their colonizers’ history and culture are their own, forced to do work from which they do not benefit or over which they have no control or power, colonized people become alienated from their history and people and begin to share their colonizers’ contempt for themselves. To end their own oppression, the first order of business is taking back their land.
As radical feminists have theorized it, the land taken from us, as women, is first and foremost our own bodies, which have been mined for sex, for children, for labor and service to men, which have been owned by men and evaluated and judged worthy or not by male standards. The first order of business as we see things, then, is for women to take back our own bodies, to end our self-contempt and the alienation we feel from our bodies, ourselves, and our own kind, and then to move on to reclaiming our own cross-cultural herstory and values, that which belongs specifically to women as a people group.
Just as men have colonized women’s bodies, they have colonized the earth –- the skies, the waters, the soil and growing things, the air, the creatures of the earth — subordinating all of the colonized in ways which have been and continue to be violent and destructive and which follow a pattern of subordination which, as women, we recognize as connected with our own.
We begin, as radical feminists, with the premise that as a colonized people, we must reclaim our own bodies first. We then move on to insist that male subordination of any people, in whatever way this is carried out – whether it is on the basis of sex, race, class, whom people love, physical ability, ethnicity, color – and of the earth and its creatures as well must be challenged, confronted, and must ultimately end.
Aletha’s post at Free Soil Party Blog, Why Women Are Revolting, is a perfect first entry in this first Carnival, in that it provides us with an overview of the many mechanisms and evidences of our colonization as women and of the ways in which our own oppression is connected with, similar to, and worsened by way of, the oppression and colonization of the earth itself.
Akkari provides us with a gruesome, yet penultimately – and hideously — illustrative, example of what male colonization means to all of us in her post about a Sony publicity stunt created to launch the “God of War II” Sony PlayStation 2 console. The corpse of a decapitated goat became the centerpiece of the “party” with guests invited to reach inside the goat’s still-warm carcass and to compete to see who could eat the most offal – procured elsewhere but intended to look like the goat’s intestines – from its stomach. Other “party” events included throwing knives at targets and pulling live snakes from a pit with bare hands while surrounded by topless girls dipping grapes into guests’ mouths.
In a post about the pervasiveness of, and the propaganda around, the themes of dominance and submission at the heart of colonization of all and every kind, Rich at Adonis Mirror critiques the sadomasochism central to political humor in the United States and the way the SM paradigm “fuels everything from radio shock jocks to [what is] supposedly ‘family-friendly’… As a society, we enjoy seeing the contrast between winners and losers. That difference, despite its starkness, is something we view as funny.”
Riane Eisler goes to the roots of colonizing, subordinating behaviors in her post, The Link Between War, Terrorism, and Intimate Violence by writing of the ways these behaviors originate and are first perpetuated in families in which children experience violence or observe violence against their mothers, and hence learn that it is okay, and even “moral,” to use violence to impose one’s will on others. Eisler writes:
…throughout history, the most violently despotic and warlike societies have been those where violence or the threat of violence is used to maintain domination of parent over child and man over woman…The time has come for progressive leaders to make ending violence against women and children a top priority. The good news is that the United Nations is recognizing that violence against women and children is the most ubiquitous human rights violation worldwide. Another piece of good news is that the issue of domestic violence –- that is, beating of women by men who say they love them –- is also gaining world attention. Yet many customs and public policies still condone the subordination of women and support, and even promote, intimate violence. If we are serious about social justice and peace, we must give primary attention to the formative gender and parent-child relations. Only through an integrated progressive agenda that takes into account both the personal and the public sphere can we build foundations for cultures of peace rather than war.
Women As a Colonized People
The links which follow offer examples from recent news of the many ways the lives and bodies of girls and women are colonized overtly and egregiously: woman leaders are imprisoned, sometimes after being beaten and tortured, or girls and women are tortured and murdered outright for the sake of the “honor” of the men in the family – father, brothers, husbands, suitors, ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands — for falling in love with the wrong man, for being unable to love the man chosen for her, for being raped, for having a baby because of rape, for remarrying nearly two decades after the death of a husband, for attempting to divorce or separate from an abuser, for seeking basic human and civil rights. In ongoing acts which amount to colonization, women are forced, under penalty of torture and death, to live with men against their will, to have sex with them, bear children for them, serve them for the rest of their lives.
For nearly a year now, the government of Iran has been brutalizing and jailing woman activists, and I have been following these events as they have been unfolding. A list of my own posts (which include links to other blogs and information) can be found here .
Iranian Woman Can’t Keep Quiet reports that in late April, Iranian national security laws were used to sentence the six women’s rights activists above to prison (click on image for more information), as though the promotion of rights for women equal “collusion and assembly to endanger national security”. These are the rights for which the woman activists have been peacefully demonstrating:
• Abolition of polygamy
• The right of divorce by women
• Joint custody of children for mothers and fathers
• Equal rights in family law
• Increasing the minimum legal age for girls to 18 (currently it is 15)
• Equal rights for women as witnesses in courts of law
Iranian Woman Can’t Keep Quiet blogs here about Du’a Khalil Aswad, above, age about 17, who was stoned to death in an “honor killing” near Mosul in Iraq for falling in love with the wrong man, then links here to a site dedicated to ending honor killings.
From the site:
Fadime Sahindal: Murdered by her father for refusing an arranged marriage in favour of a Swedish boyfriend, who also died in mysterious circumstances. Fadime was an active campaigner against ‘honour’ crime. (Sweden)
D. Kannagi: Forced to drink poison in front of scores of witnesses, then burnt for marrying outside her caste. (India)
Naziat Khan: Strangled in front of her three young daughters at home in Streatham, London. Her estranged husband allegedly carried out the honour killing because she wanted a separation. (UK)
Rudayena Jemael: Pictured here with her son, who was suspected of killing her because she chose to remarry 19 years after her divorce.
Sezen Yuksel: Strangled by her husband two days after her wedding. She had been forced into marriage and refused sexual relations. (India)
Yasmin Akhtar: Kidnapped, strangled and set on fire when she applied for divorce. (UK)
S Murugesan: Poisoned and burnt for marrying a woman of a higher caste (D. Kannagi above). I am including a man because men also torture and murder men in the interests of preserving male hierarchies. This is very visible in the caste system, but it happens everywhere.
Monique Vance: Chased down and fatally shot despite court orders barring contact through 2009. Karl Vance shot Monique Vance several times inside a neighbor’s apartment and then several more times after she ran out. (Seattle, Washington)
Clella Colson: Strangled by her ex-boyfriend, Terry Van Allen, in front of their 14-year-old son. Despite a no-contact order. (Lake Stevens, Washington)
Rebecca Griego: Shot to death at work despite no-contact orders and Griego having taken every conceivable precaution trying to protect herself.
I include the last three as honor killings because in fact, that is what they are. These killings and several others occurred where I live, within the last month or so. Honor killings occur throughout the world, whether the surrounding culture recognizes them for what they are or not.
In an article provocatively and controversially entitled, How Multiculturalism is Betraying Women, Johann Hari writes of a shocking number of German court verdicts in which “honor killings” or similar “honor” crimes went unpunished because the courts considered the honor crimes part of the “culture” of which the victims were a part. Hari writes:
[This] allows the most reactionary and revolting men … to define what that culture is. Across Europe, many imams are offering advice to Muslim men on how to beat Muslim women. For example, in Spain, the popular Imam Mohammed Kamal Mustafa warns that you shouldn’t use “whips that are too thick” because they leave scars that can be detected by the “infidels”. That might be Mustafa’s culture — but it isn’t Nishal’s. It isn’t the culture of the women who scream and weep as they are beaten….Listen to Jasvinder Sanghera, who founded the best British charity helping Asian women after her sister was beaten and beaten and then burned herself to death. She says: “It’s a betrayal of these women to be PC about this. Look at the figures. Asian women in Britain are three times more likely to commit suicide than their white friends. That’s because of all this.”
Yet the brave campaigners who have tried to help these women — like the Labour MP Ann Cryer — have been smeared as racist. In fact, the real racists are the people who vehemently condemn misogyny and homophobia when it comes from white people but mysteriously fall silent when it comes from black and Asian men.
…The highest administrative court in North Rhine-Westphalia has agreed that Muslim parents have the “right” to forbid their daughter from going on a school trip unless she was accompanied by a male family member at all times. The judges said the girl was like “a partially mentally impaired person who, because of her disability, can only travel with a companion”.
As the Iranian author Azar Nafisi puts it: “I very much resent it when people — maybe with good intentions or from a progressive point of view — keep telling me, ‘It’s their culture’ … It’s like saying the culture of Massachusetts is burning witches.” She is horrified by the moves in Canada to introduce shariah courts to enforce family law for Muslims.
I include this link, although it is not a blog post, because the issues the author raises are issues radical feminists have been raising for 50 years or more now, they are issues we are still raising, and yet when we raise these issues we are too often called “racists” or “cultural imperialists.” How can a culture in which a woman is tortured, burned, murdered for the sake of her father’s or husband’s “honour” be rightfully called a culture which belongs to her? Particularly when she begged for help or mercy as she was being tortured or murdered?
Immigrant Women as Colonized Women
Angela Valenzuela provides superb coverage of the recent “Homeland Security” raids on factories and workplaces in the United States focusing on the fact that it is women, and especially young mothers with children, who are suffering most in these raids.
[In early March], more than 500 armed homeland security officers descended upon Michael Blanco Inc. The owner of the factory, and a few of his senior staff, were arrested for hiring undocumented workers and creating false documents. They were out on bail and home with their families that night. Approximately 350 employees, mostly mothers with young children, were swept up in the raid, shackled together in groups of three by their wrists and ankles and marched to buses bound for Fort Devens, 100 miles away. Without any legal representation or due process, these workers were asked for their immigration documentation and encouraged by immigration officers to choose voluntary deportation regardless of whether an immigration application was in process.
According to this press release issued by Legal Activists of Color, a number of the women and children who were arrested and detained were crime victims who would have been eligible to legally remain in the United States:
The raids separated hundreds of children from their mothers, who often were their only care-takers. Members of our organizations working with detainees discovered that a significant number of the undocumented women and children detained in these raids are eligible for status, particularly as victims of crimes, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not inform them of this. Unfortunately many women and children were summarily deported before they could learn of the special routes to status Congress created for them. Such enforcement actions seriously undermine the Congressional and national goals of challenging violence against women and children.
Also of interest is Locking Up Family Values, a report about the prison-like conditions at Dept. of “Homeland Security’s” “facilities,” via the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, also courtesy of Angela Valenzuela.
In a related post entitled The Pentagon’s Sweatshop, Unbossed.com focuses on the fact that immigrants arrested in raids like the one in New Bedford were actually working for companies which qualify as sweatshops, and in fact, sweatshops whose main contracts were with the U.S. Department of Defense:
- The workplace rules and the conditions at the factory qualify it as a sweatshop.
- The factory’s main contract was with the Defense Department.
- The Army must have known about the nineteenth-century like factory conditions, and the employment of illegal aliens, because it maintained an office at the factory.
Though the raid at the Massachusetts leather factory has evoked plenty of comment around the country, especially from immigrant-bashers, the DoD has remained almost silent about its role in permitting this to continue for years. And what little it has said is almost certainly false
Taking Our Bodies Back from Our Colonizers
Pornography, Prostitution, Rape and Sexual Violence
In this post, Pippa of One Salford Feminist calls our attention to a post at Sinister Girl entitled “I Hate Porn”.This post chronicles Ms Jared’s journey from porn-endorsing fun-feminism to anti-pornography radical feminist activism. It’s a great post, and it’s also a very common story. Most of us who are anti-pornography feminists at one time were accepting of pornography, sometimes because the men in our lives had always used it, or because we thought all men used it and so we thought we had no choice, or because we had not heard from women harmed in the making of porn or by men in their lives who used it and weren’t aware of its destructiveness, or because some of us simply hadn’t realized we could reject pornography and male partners who used it. We didn’t realize rejecting pornography was our prerogative.
Why do my peers in feminism support corporate porn because it has tattoos and piercings?…women who make money being naked, the vast majority of them, don’t have a choice, which is why a large number of them get high before they get on camera…I would like to know how any business that is about exploitation is empowering?… If you have a problem with sweat shops, why don’t you have a problem with this?
Pony submitted a classic post from the Great Blamer, Twisty Faster, entitled “Reader Actually Asks Spinster Aunt’s Opinion” and added the following from the comments courtesy of Blamer Miller on Apr 28th, 2007 at 3:57 pm:
“Yes! ‘Feminist porn’ uses the same ploy ‘gangsta rappers’ do in presenting themselves as icons of black empowerment, rather than the damn minstrel show it is. Patriarchy apologists constantly use projection or doublespeak, such as claiming one is anti-sex for criticizing the porn message, which is truly anti-sex in its moral condemnations of sexual females (Hence, the necessary female degradation, torture, and destruction) and, thus, heterosexual sex itself, which is extreme not only [because] sex is natural but necessary for the survival of the species. Hell, if males are so offended by hetero sex that they “need” to degrade females mentally or physically to gain pleasure, why not just have sex w/ other men? Oh right, [because] then they’d be “faggots!” The dogma of patriarchy believes all sex is bad, as evident by the words used to describe it: fuck, nasty, dirty, etc. Any activity females partake in becomes a source of vitriolic contempt, [with] sex proving to be the most explosive (Note how all female sex acts are slurs). Even if a sex video showed a loving couple in which the female was actually lavished [with] worship, society would still associate her [with] demonized stereotypes of inherent female immorality (Look at that slut!). Our moral hysteria toward females, and thus sex, reminds me of a friend (who happens to be black) and how she swore she would never eat watermelons in front of whites due to racist stereotypes. There’s nothing remotely wrong [with] eating watermelons but people would see her and think “blackface”. Male supremacists (of either gender) have done the same thing [with] sex, in which our deep-seated misogyny is reflected in the desperate need to portray sex as inherently vile and for femaleness to be punished to sanctify such evil. As a young Catholic, I used to carry holy water to protect me from demons (Parents: outrageously devout). If you had to regularly engage [with] demons intimately out of biological urging wouldn’t you become more elaborate and fervid in your denunciations of the evil in your midst? Porn preaches such moral salvation (Misogyny is a religion. Religious zealots of any stripe tend to be the most disturbing in their sexual practices, as the root of any authoritarianism is ‘morality’.). Only intense shame could cause the masses to seek out vulgarity, slurs, and/or porn as a sexual ‘security blanket.’
Ann Bartow of Feminist Law Professors analyzes That NYT Magazine Feature About Pornography,focusing on the way the article documents that pornography which once would have been viewed –- and possibly prosecuted –- as obscene has become acceptable and mainstream, just as radical feminists predicted it would, in a society dulled to depictions of sexualized violence.
I appreciated some of Reverse Cowgirl’s Comments in a post about the same article, “The Opacity of Pornography”, forwarded to me via Donna Hughes’ DIGNITY listserv. Reverse Cowgirl is not anti-porn. She is, however, interested in writing in ways which tell the truth about pornography, and if there is anything which needs to be told, it is the truth about pornography. She is also an eloquent, thoughtful, and insightful writer. Cory Silverberg of About.com had argued with this statement from the NYT article:
[Porn] is an exceedingly conspicuous presence in the community but also thoroughly sealed off and opaque.
With literally dozens of documentaries produced each year, airing on everything from HBO to ABC, and with more than half a dozen behind-the-scenes reality style programs currently airing or in production, it’s hard to imagine porn as sealed off or opaque. Finances aside (porn companies are largely privately owned and getting information on the business side of porn is notoriously difficult) I can think of few forms of entertainment that are as open to public scrutiny as pornography. Documents like the Meese Report on Pornography, television shows like Porno Valley, and movies like Boogie Nights, have all added to the mainstreaming of porn, while simultaneously exposing the various sides of the porn industry, and to a lesser extent the people engaged in it.
Reverse Cowgirl, responding to Cory Silverberg, says:
I disagree. The mainstreaming of porn is real. The projected image of porn that has gone mainstream is not. Those three examples that Silverberg cites–the Meese Report, “Porno Valley,” and “Boogie Nights”–are all misrepresentations of porn’s reality. The Meese Report’s conclusion that the effects of porn are harmful is generally considered questionable. “Porno Valley,” a reality TV show about Vivid Video and the Vivid Girls, is a heavily edited slice of Porn Valley’s elite. “Boogie Nights” conjures up the “golden age of porn”; it’s a fiction of a fiction. Today, porn is the elephant in America’s collective bedroom. The real Porn Valley remains unexplored and unexposed.
The first porn movie set I was on was “Flashpoint”. Seven porn stars were fucking on a fire truck in the middle of a parking lot. On the floor of the bathroom in a trailer lay the detritus the porn starlets had left behind. It was a pile of empty douche and enema bottles. Porn asks its stars to get fucked up the ass for a living, literally. In an abandoned building, I watched while Jenna Jameson and T. T. Boy had sex that night. T. T. Boy looked like a construction worker trying to run a jackhammer through cement. After the pop shot, the P.A. stepped forward because his job was handing T. T. Boy a paper towel. Not long ago, I came across a photo from the set of a porn movie. The girl in the picture is a porn star. Her eyes are red. Her mouth is agape. There is a dog bowl on her head. On it, someone has scrawled: STUPID WHORE. The real Porn Valley remains behind closed doors. The reality is too hardcore for reality TV–and America
Stan Goff over at Feral Scholar links to a great article by Gail Dines, “Racy Sex, Sexy Racism,” originally posted at Counterpunch.
Can we now relax and luxuriate in the knowledge that sexist, racist speech is no longer accepted in American media? If only! The Imus ruckus erupted one week after a local event had the Boston media talking. Simmons College students invited porn producer/performer Ron Jeremy to campus to “debate” pornography with feminist Susan Cole. This ignited a firestorm at Simmons where some students protested Ron Jeremy’s appearance and felt that paying more than $12,000 to the speakers was a misuse of student funds. Predictably, those who supported hosting Jeremy on campus invoked the mantra of free speech.
Would the Simmons students invite Imus to campus after this week’s uproar? The content of Jeremy’s productions makes Imus look positively quaint in comparison. Jeremy’s film titles include “Black Babes in Heat,” “Black Cherry Coeds,” “Girls of the Third Reich,” and “Three Men and a Geisha”. This type of sexism and racism is mainstream throughout the $57 billion porn industry yet hardly warrants a peep from those groups who organized against Imus. …Why does pornography get a free pass? Go to any so called “interracial” pornography web site, and you are assaulted by images and words that suggest that African American women are sexually debased and deserving of abuse. Images of Asian women generally portray sexual submission. These movies are marketed as racy sex, when what they really do is sexualize racism.
Stan also links to the Feministing blog post about the stalking of blogger Kathy Sierra, but for Carnival of Radical Feminist purposes, I am most interested in Stan’s commentary and in his link to an excerpt of a very fine article by Patricia Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights, in which Williams analyzes the way law school exams exploit race, gender and violence in ways which have no educational purpose, which are “gratuitous… voyeuristic, and [which] perpetuate inaccurate and harmful stereotypes as “truthful.” Concluding, Williams says:
The message that is reinforced by such exams is that while racist, sexist stereotypes may be part of life, it’s not important – or important not — to deal with them in law.(And yet of course we know it is) Or that it’s not so important that it can’t be severed, caged, and neatly suppressed. Actual importance is thus not legitimated.
What Stan says, which I find really good and useful, is:
… we also know that liberal law is designed to stabilize systems of power (class, gender, national oppression) that operate prior to law.
Communications and the means of production of communications are in a completely recursive relation with every other aspect of every oppressive system. Funny how the whole Imus thing is morphing. More contradictions than you can shake a stick at. Defense of the team members as “not ho’s” because they fit good-girl archetypes. Defense of Imus as a free speech icon. Join Howard Stern — a misogynist asshole, and Larry Flynt — another misogynist asshole. Calling out misogynist song lyrics; never realizing that what is being called out is liberalism. I am reminded of Patricia Williams’ description of ethical dilemmas posed to law students in order to inoculate them from any but a liberal (abstract) interpretation of the law. I have a suggestion. Read this article, then go watch MEF’s Wrestling with Manhood. The most directly misogynistic violence is being legitimated as theater, or humor. There is a backlash against feminism, decades long now, that is amplifying its anti-woman message (and recruiting) by avoiding accountability via the internet. Raises fractious questions about “speech” to say this; but avoiding contradictions does not make them go away. It ensures that the ignored contradiction will rise up and one day bite us squarely on the ass.
In this post, Ms. Jared over at Sinister Girl quotes Sam of Genderberg’s “Ten Reasons to Decriminalize Prostitution – a Rebuttal”, which is (of course!) a rebuttal to the common reasons which are offered for the decriminalization of prostitution.
In her post, “Sexual Violence is Terrorism”, Incurable Hippie challenges the way rape and sexual violence are dismissed, are not taken seriously, as the acts of male terrorism they are, particularly given the facts and figures (which she provides) which indicate that huge numbers of girls and women throughout the world have been harmed by these acts and live in fear of them. Hippie asks the question that is always on my mind, on the minds of radical feminists: “If sexual violence is not terrorism, then what is it?”
In this good post Bean talks about the ethics of men writing internet posts about rapes they may know about through their work, and along those same lines, here Amananta has a great post up exploring all the reasons women don’t report rape.
Colonizing of Our Bodies By Patriarchal Medicine
Doulicia has an interesting post up about being a radical doula, and she cites to another really interesting blog post about the way pro-choice advocacy and birth activism might and really ought to go hand in hand.
Midwife Sage Femme blogs here about the tyranny of doctors’ “growth charts” for infants, these “growth charts” being one mechanism by way of which breastfeeding mothers, especially, and their infants, are made subject to control of doctors and governmental “child services” offices which inordinately punish mothers to the extent that they are not white, that they are poor, lesbian or in any way nonconforming from the standpoint of male heterosupremacy.
The Feminist Peace Network has a great post up about the medicalization of menopause which has put a huge number of women at greater risk for breast and other cancers with pharmaceutical companies raking in the profits. After all of these years of prescribing hormone replacement therapy as some sort of panacea for the terrible problem of women, getting old, and after the suffering, cancer, and deaths of women who have taken these drugs, patriarchal medicine says “oops.”
Two Peas, No Pod, has a stunning post up about the radicalizing effects of pregnancy and motherhood in male heterosupremacist culture:
I have to admit to having been shocked to the core by the impact of pregnancy on my body.. I am still trying to come to terms with the inevitable impacts of this choice on my life. My PhD is just starting to really come together, and I will have to set it aside and will never again have the freedom to come back to it with my full undivided attention…
The real issue for me, however, is identity. For all the real gains that we have made as women over the past decades, there is nothing like motherhood to bring the full force of society’s sexism down upon you. Issues that I have been able to side-step previously, will become harder to avoid and I don’t feel like having the battles that this may provoke. I am not interested in being defined solely as a ‘mother’, regardless of how much I know that I will love my child and cherish our relationship. No man is ever threatened with being reduced to the single identity of ‘father’. Their personal qualities, career ambitions, and autonomous hopes and dreams are rarely taken away from them just because they chose to breed.
I want to make it clear that I do not see this as a failure of feminism – as I know that this has been the belief of some. Instead, I see this of an indication of how far we have to go. The role of mother is still naturalized in a way that thoroughly devalues it – most particularly by those who claim to be upholding traditional family values. Because breeding is defined as a natural act (which it is, but bare with me here), women are expected to blossom in pregnancy, or to at least be stoic when they don’t. Their sacrifices – physical, emotional, career – are also continually undervalued. Men who take time off work to care for their young children are glorified as heroes, while women are placed in a no-win situation where we will be criticized by some for returning too early and by others for neglecting our careers for too long.
This is not the result of feminism – this is the continued impact of a patriarchal culture that remains fundamentally unchanged at its core. Workplaces are still built around the idea that there is a good women at home taking care of the household. Childcare is expensive and waiting lists are long. Maternity leave is not provided for most Australian workers, and part-time work is difficult to secure. Despite all the rhetoric of family values and the (ridiculous) urgings from the government that we breed, no real effort has been made to actually make our society one that is supportive of women’s choices – abortion is vilified, while the choice to have a child receives a ‘baby bonus’ and then ….nothing.
Suki Has an Opinion at Machine Gun Keyboard has an intriguing post up about an Australian study which revealed that women in their teens and 20s who had chosen abortion were three times more likely to have been abused by a partner than those who did not abort. She considers the implications in light of the way women who have aborted are commonly accused of being “selfish” or whose abortions are categorized as a “choice” or “lifestyle choice
Partial Birth Abortion Ban
Shortly after the Supreme Court decision effectively banning the “partial birth abortion,”Maia posted a link at Alas to Phantom Scribbler’s post, in which Phantom Scribbler wonders what I am continually wondering about subjects of all kinds when I check out the offerings at Alas: why nobody is actually going to the source, to the experts, to the women, in this case, to the blogs of women who had actually had “partial birth abortions” to learn what their ideas and thoughts might be about the ban. Feminism is not about the blabbings-on of clueless white males or the blabbings-on of any other “experts” under male heterosupremacy so-called. Feminism is about women: our voices, our stories, our reality, our truths. To learn about women, our lives, our struggles, we go to women who are having those struggles!
Phantom Scribbler writes:
If you’re mainstream media or one of the major political blogs, and you’ve just put together some sort of roundup of the blogs’ discussion of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, we, the legions of irrelevant mommy bloggers, would like to let you know that we have found it lacking. What, you say? Surely everyone knows that mommy bloggers are only good for talking about naps, dirty diapers, and Linda Hirschmann.
Phantom Scribbler then refers us to Cicely, who has written what I believe to be a very definitive, woman-centered statement on the “partial birth abortion” ban so-called, a statement the blogosphere, progressive and mainstream media have largely missed because of the way the mommy bloggers are too often dismissed and marginalized, including by feminists. We are all the losers when this happens, because there is some very fine radical feminist commentary available at the so-called mommy blogs. As Two Peas, No Pod blogs above suggested, motherhood is a crisis for all women and a radicalizing experience for many women, not only because of the actual experiences of pregnancy and birth, but because of the response of patriarchal medicine, doctors, the marketplace which is attempting to sell to mothers, and because of the all the ways the surrounding culture’s responses to us as women change once we have children. If we don’t read the mommy blogs, we miss some great and ongoing radical feminist process, including on the part of woman bloggers who do not identify as feminists at all. Yet.
Cecily lays down what exactly is on the line with the fuzzy, medically ill-considered, ideological judgment of SCOTUS on Partial Birth Abortion which contains absolutely NO provision for the health of the mother. Only the life of the mother. Cecily is a good person to listen to. She had to have a “partial birth abortion” — which may be either one of two procedures, since that’s not a medical term — as an emergency procedure when her pregnancy went horribly, horribly wrong. Which pregnancies absolutely can do; pregnancy is a bizarre physical state, no matter what it looks like on the cover of Cosmo’s Yummy Mummy photo shoot, and it carries risk.
Cicely’s blog is entitled, “And I Wasted All that Birth Control.” The tagline is, “a journal about parenting after infertility, pre-eclampsia and loss, sobriety, being fat, politics and more.” In a great post about the court decision she writes:
…even if my twins had both been alive, THEY WOULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED. Do not tell me they would have, because you are wrong.
There have been NO DOCUMENTED CASES of babies born that early surviving–I don’t care what pro-life websites you send me links to that say differently. THEY ARE LYING. Trust me.
Don’t you think that I wanted those babies and would have done anything I could to save them? And don’t you think that my doctor–who knew about my struggles to get pregnant and called the day of my surgery “the worst day of my professional career“–would have told me if that was possible?
Lastly, let’s discuss, using me as an example, the difference between HEALTH and LIFE. Where do you draw the line? Was my life actually at risk at the moment they chose to terminate the pregnancy? Well, my blood pressure was going higher and higher and they weren’t able to get it under control with the medications they had available. My kidneys has begun to shut down and I’d stopped producing urine. But I was alive. I could have remained alive, possibly, under those circumstances for a while. Maybe they could have pushed it until I actually began to have seizures. Or maybe until I had a stroke. Or, maybe, since even after a stroke and having seizures I would have still been alive, maybe they would have to wait until after I felt into a coma.
But wait! If I’m in a coma, I’m still alive, right? Even if my brain has been irreparably damaged, I’m still ALIVE. Right?
So, my point is, sure– the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban” has a provision for the LIFE of the mother. But there is NO PROVISION FOR HER HEALTH.
Or the health of her uterus, or her future children.
To sum it all up, if I hadn’t had the procedure that I had, Nicholas, Zachary, me AND Tori would all be dead.
Radical Feminist Process
The following blog posts are posts in which radical feminists talk about ideas, process events, make new theory, strategize revolution.
Jo of Stanselen has a great poem up entitled A pOEM OF Telling Tales – Kill Capitalism:
she needs … to be hynotised by product lies
constantly bombarded by her own self lack and
rank imperfections,she needs… the competition of friends,
the petty fights of sibling rivalry.
It makes her grow small and slow- just the way you wanted her.
Those ‘anti-sex’ feminists…we’re led to believe are out and about and ready to take all our fun away have THEIR power undermined, because if they critique sex, or don’t have a certain kind of sex, it surely must be because no one wants to have it WITH them…If they are not ‘sex positive’ or talking about how great sex is all the damn time, they must also in some way be maladjusted, and thus, their credibility and power is sapped, too. The big duh of course, which should be obvious, is that either way you flip that coin we’re all being discounted on the basis of sex and sexuality, and how others interpret us through that lens, no matter what we call ourselves. Which I shouldn’t need to mention, but will all the same, is quite precisely what feminism, from its very beginnings, has protested.
Ginmar has this great post up which is something like a Radical Feminism 101 post. It’s so worth reading, but I like this:
In a sexist society, there is no way to avoid sexism. Therefore, feminism requires that you analyze every thing and make conscious choices. Feminism isn’t about telling women what to do; it’s about letting them know that all the things they’ve been denied are possible.
In this post Witchy-Woo talks about picking our battles and says:
…as a radical feminist I believe that the system of patriarchal capitalism (the dominant ideology) and the hierarchies of assumed power it depends upon for its perpetuation locates women and children as ‘less than’. I believe that women and children are actively taught to understand that they are ‘less than’ by the systems of patriarchal capitalism. I believe that violence, or the threat of violence, is fundamental to the learning of this lesson.
H.A. Chew submitted Lily Pad’s interesting post entitled “A Visible Invisibility” in which she discusses the metaphoric invisibility of very visible women.
Allecto of Gorgon Poisons, writing on Radical Feminist Sex rejects the use of “sex toys” so called and other objects as disconnecting instead of connecting and calls for truly revisioned, woman-centered erotic sensibilities:
Inherent in my understanding of heterorelational sex is the violence of certain sexual acts in and of themselves. Intercourse for example can be engaged in ‘of her own free will’ and there may be no extenuating violence (ie. he may not hit her or call her bitch) and the act itself can still be violent; the act itself is caught up in the social context of violent, phallocentric cultural ideology. Under patriarchy the penis itself becomes a tool, a symbol. Its strongest manifestation and use is as a weapon. …The sharing of senses is inherently mutual, grounded in forming a real physical connection with another person. By this I mean that lesbian sexuality should be formed, not as a mere anti-thesis to phallic sexuality, but as an extension of forming a radical commitment to women. Our emphasis must be on building and maintaining connections with other women; touch being a transformation in itself.…the use of objects in sex, even if it is possible to divorce the object from the ideology of penetration and violence, seems to me to present a mechanized view of sexuality… Disconnection, disassociation, mechanization, disembodiment are all violent manifestations of patriarchy which have the potential to divorce women from themselves and other women.
Here Sazz describes how understanding the similarities between the oppression of dairy cows and of women resulted in her decision to become a vegan, and in this post, entitled, A Helpful Eating Disorder: the 100 Mile Diet Makes Me Want to Hurl, Lo of Braless Living LA vexes about what somehow manages to pass for social consciousness among the white and the affluent in her neighborhood in Los Angeles, i.e.,the “100 mile diet,” in which affluent, well-fed people wear their elbows out patting themselves on the back and wherein they heartily congratulate one another for the way in which they righteously shop and eat foods from within a 100-mile radius of their homes. Lo’s rant is SO satisfying; you have to read it!
If you’re vegetarian or a 100 mile radius person in regards to your food and you are not donating at least a portion of your time to the well being of someone else’s diet, you are bullshit…I personally feel guilty about people starving in my neighborhood. I feel horrible when I see homeless people digging through the trash can for food, but you know I guess the homeless are the trendsetters. [They] not only get their food from within a 100-mile radius, … they eat the left over food the rest of us throw out. That’s pretty trailblazing if you ask me.
Possibly we can get Joe the Bum to write about his experience eating from various neighborhood trash cans for the past five years. When will actually doing something for another human become the new hot thing?”
Professor Zero has a great post up entitled Oddness of Men, or Is This Entitlement about a male friend who has approached her, more than once, with the proposition that she and he ought to have a friends-with-benefits-type relationship, and who is miffed because in his mind, it is more politically correct for Profacero to have sex with him, because he’s a friend and a good guy, than to have a romantic relationship with someone besides him.The discussion of negotiating power in het relationships, both in Professor Zero’s post and in the comments which follow, is really thoughtful and interesting. Also funny!
From the post:
So far I am too polite to say to this Friend that what he wants is something he would have to buy, although this is what I think. He does not understand how it is that I had an Affair and a Relationship, each with someone less balanced and friendly than himself, but (as I keep pointing out) also far less stingy romantically. I am half tempted to say I will trade sex for something like electrical work: he rewires my house, I emit 3,000 volts.
In this poem Laurelin writes about power—what it is and what it isn’t, and in this great post, Amananta at Screaming into the Void writes about Men, Women Food and Weight:
I’m tired of the bullshit story that men “need” more food than women and that women “need” to weigh less than men even when they are of the same size.
Here Chasingmoksha at Hah! analyzes various annoying blogging and commenting habits, focusing on lynch mobs, GODS, and cheerleaders, but centering her analysis in the way cheerleading, GOD complexes, and lynch mobs maintain and perpetuate dominance hierarchies.
Radical Feminist Spirituality
Radical feminists are divided as to feminist spirituality:some are atheists or agnostics who reject notions of a Goddess or feminist spirituality of any kind; others worship the Goddess as part of their radical feminist practice and politics. In the U.S. in particular, almost without exception, girls are raised terrified by notions of a male deity who has created them not in the image of himself, but to serve those made in his image – men. The effect this has on little girls and women should not be underestimated, and the revelation, to terrorized girls and women, of envisioning the Divine as a Woman also should not be underestimated. It is unfortunate, in my view, that although many of the early radical feminists identified, at least at some point, as wiccan, the Movement split, with wiccans and women interested in Goddess spirituality moving in the direction of what would come to be known as “ecofeminism,” incorporating a focus on motherhood, pregnancy, birth, matriarchal and matrilineal cultures, and radical feminists moving in a direction which tended to give issues around motherhood, pregnancy, birth, feminist spirituality and environmental issues short shrift. think as women we need the voices of all women. I very much appreciate and understand the reasoning of women who have rejected spirituality as well as motherhood, pregnancy and birth. At the same time, 80 percent of the world’s women will have had children by the time they are 40 years old. Issues around motherhood and spirituality, as well, are central to by far the majority of the world’s women, and therefore, I think they must remain central to feminism as well, including radical feminism.
I also believe that Goddess spirituality is important because of the ascendancy to political power of self-styled disciples of the Male Bully Gods in this day and age. Just the envisioning, imagining, of Divinity as Female is subversive, particularly for women and girls who have been fed a steady diet of patriarchal religion.
Moving right along,In in her post Radio Sutra #1: KURUKULLA Explains A Few Things posted at Spontaneous Combustion, Akkari intends to “kick moses off the mountain and reclaim Female-Voice-of-Divinity primacy, letting the Mother speak all of Her Mind without the male commentary…”
In this post Z Budapest finds her paragraph in Barbara Love’s new book, Feminists Who Have Changed America. It is on page 64. She muses over what it has meant to be a trailblazer. (For those who aren’t aware of Z Budapest, she is a foremother of the women’s spirituality movement in the United States, and in particular, Dianic Wicca, which is a woman-only expression of women’s spirituality and worship of the Goddess).
We are in it for the LONG HAUL. Chilling, spine-tingling to know that somehow it’s us. We have signed up and never let go, didn’t tarry, kept it up and now we are feted as pioneers. It’s a strange thing to be part of a phenomenon. It’s a generational thing. This group of boomers somehow took it upon ourselves to change the status of women for the better, and got away with it. I have introduced Women’s Spirituality into the American psyche, replaced the old jealous and possessive god of the bible with a Great Mother who has ten thousand names. It’s spreading so well, I have no idea how many little woman “cells” there are who gather together with food and prayer and light candles to the Queen of Heaven. May there be more than I can ever count.
Z also offers some interesting musings on mother-daughter issues.
As daughters I think the main issue that comes up is “Mother didn’t protect me. “ Mother didn’t protect me against my father, brothers, the male world. This lack of female power is the first clue to a girl that she has the wrong sex between her legs. The sexual apartheid is clearly visible to even a four year old, from god the father to the son also a boy, no female to pray to unless you are Catholic. Then you are already in training for Goddess worship, since the Holy Mother is the Great Goddess.
Powerlessness is not attractive to children. Daughters suffer humiliation seeing mother abdicate or get deposed from her position of Giver of All Life. Boys stop identifying with the powerless parent. Where the wisdom treasure lies about our moms is in reflection. One contemplates the mother’s situation and often we discover that she made choices towards survival more than our comfort. She wanted us to grow up, just that took a lot, and gain the power back. But she herself was not in the position to do so.
In reading her blog, which I learned about via Athana at Radical Goddess Theology, I came across an interesting refutation of myths about Dianic Wicca which would apply just about as well, to radical feminism. Here’s an example:
Dianics are man-haters.
This is the most powerful accusation to divide women. We all cringe when we hear it because what it says to us is that we are hating our own children. This is the result of women’s audacity for claiming our own space to worship our Goddess. We are the life givers, we are raisers of sons and daughters; there is nobody on earth who didn’t come from our wombs. How dare you be so insecure that you call your mamas such names! Men have their priesthoods, their popes and ayatollahs, they have their religious fanatics, Osama Bin Laden, and suicide bombers, their men-only clubs and an all pervasive boys’ networks. Men don’t call other men woman haters, but they should. It’s a strange misguided projection on the women indeed. To belittle women, call us names because we want to worship without men, is absurd.
Building a New and Woman-Centered World
“Comin a Time, Woman Ain’t Goin’ to Need No Man”
Via Professor Zero’s blog, I followed a link to a blog post which caused me to spend most of a Saturday becoming acquainted with a lesbian woman blues musician from the 1920s with whom I had heretofore been unfamiliar, Lucille Bogan, also known as Bessie Jackson. I am so grateful! What a woman she was!
Check out the lyrics to this song:
BD* Women’s Blues
Comin’ a time, B.D. women, they ain’t gonna need no men
Comin’ a time, B.D. women, they ain’t gonna need no men
Oh, the way they treat us is a low down and dirty thing
B.D. women you sure can’t understand
B.D. women you sure can’t understand
They got a head like a sweet angel
And they walk like a nach’l man
B.D. women, they all done learned their thing
B. D. women, they all done learned their thing
They can lay their jive just like a nach’l man
B. D. women, B.D. women
You know they sure is rough
B.D. women, B.D. women,
You know they sure is rough
They drink up many a whiskey,
And they sure can strut their stuff
B.D. women, you know they work and they make their dough
B.D. women, you know they work and they make their dough
And when they get ready to spend it, they know the place to go.
*”B.D.” means lesbian; in the black community of the ’20s of which Bogan/Jackson was part, lesbians were referred to as “bull dykers”
In searching for information about Lucille Bogan/Bessie Jackson, I came across a really interesting article from a book by the noted lesbian historian Lillian Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, chapter entitled “White ‘Slumming’ in Harlem”. The article is well worth the read for many reasons, including Faderman’s analysis of the racism of white people who went to Harlem jazz clubs to “slum,” but for my purposes here, it is this that interested me:
Bessie Jackson’s “BD [bulldyker] Women’s Blues” is another provocative admonishment to heterosexual males that they are dispensable, and if they will not reform, women could easily do without them. She tells her male listeners that they can’t understand BD women, but in her experience, [these women] have everything a “nach’l man” has and more. They can lay their jive, they can strut their stuff, they can drink up many whiskeys, they’re not too lazy to work and make their dough, and a woman misses nothing by choosing them over a man.
But there is an additional dimension to
Jackson’s song that can also be found in a few other blues songs about lesbianism. It can be read as a subversive statement of lesbian pride in its listing of lesbian competencies, and a prefiguration of the radical feminism of a much later era in its warning that women can find other women much nicer than cruel and selfish men.
Serious Threat to Women’s Land
Via Amy at Feminist Reprise, we learn of a threat from the U.S. Government and the Oregon Women’s Land Trust to women’s land in the form of a proposed natural gas pipeline right-of-way which would require a 95-foot clearcut for nearly half a mile on OWL property. Amy provides extensive information and suggestions as to how to support women’s land together with addresses.
Indigenous Uprising has posted the text of a speech by Kahentinetha Horn, longtime indigenous rights activist from the Mohawk Nation and editor of Mohawk Nation News, entitled the “The Okwehonwe Democratic Agenda,” which is really a manifesto on the subject of the governing of truly revolutionary communities, which is consistent with “government” as some radical feminists have envisioned it and which offers inspiration and encouragement.
We’ve been complaining about the top-down bureaucratic agenda of the colonizers. Do we have something to replace it? Yes we do. It’s called the “Kaianerehkowa/Great Law of Peace” [the constitution of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy]. Our philosophy can be used to build a society based on peace, power and righteousness. These words have meanings that are deeply rooted in our culture and completely different from the kinds of expectations they raise among the colonized. Our understanding of these concepts has nothing in common with the command and obedience model of predatory capitalism or the exploitation of ordinary people for the power and profit of a few. The new (colonial) world order is opposite to our way of life based on the principles of fully informed consent and consensus in all our relationships.
As we assert our sovereignty, we have lots to think about. What can we Onkwehonwe do with all our land and resources and all the squatters who are here? The land belongs to us and our future generations. It always will. All our resource revenues can be used to compensate the colonists fairly. The rest can be put towards rebuilding a safe and healthy environment. Canada and
Mexico will, of course, become irrelevant. These cancerous organizations don’t belong. They are trying to kill the hosts. That’s us. Then they’ll kill everybody else! Where will that leave them?
The old hierarchies will cling to their delusional powers. They will keep their guns pointed at us and try to invent more lethal weapons. We’ll have to bring out the feathers and start tickling them so they can let down their defenses and so they can grab a shovel and take part. If they don’t, we might have to ask them to leave. Their hysterical megalomania is getting them involved in serious violations of international accords. If they’re not careful, they could be declared persona non grata worldwide.
Haulath Mohamed of Maldivia has an interesting and inspiring post up about true democracy, how it is defined, what it includes, its value, at goodgovernor.org, A Framework of Politics and Democracy – Part II. I like her emphasis on the importance of elimination of sexism to a functioning democracy.
Rachel over at Mothertalkers blogs here about the launching of a women’s political party in Australia entitled What Women Want. The party is the brainchild of Justine Caines, a mother of six and maternity services advocate who has worked as a policy advisor in the Australian Capital Territory (otherwise known as Canberra and its surrounds) government and in the union movement.
The party’s website sets out their basic policies which include health, work and family, education and war and peace. Rachel says her favorite is the party’s policy on maternity leave:
We will call for a national parental leave scheme that provided new mothers with a “wage” for the first six months of their child’s life. This wage would be at least equivalent to the federal minimum award wage. This scheme would then allow another six months unpaid leave.
What Women Want will field candidates in the Senate and House of Representatives in selected marginal seats.
Rants Against Bush (Gotta have ‘em :)):
Madeleine Begun Kane parodies the Bush’s attitudes towards those suffering in the war in Iraq in Serenade For The First Sufferers posted at Mad Kane’s Political Madness.
I found this rant from Faboomama on Bush’s hypocrisy to be really insightful. I sure hadn’t connected the dots in quite this way until I read her post. Writing about Bush’s response to the recent Virginia Tech massacre:
I’m so damn sick of George Bush. I’m sick and tired of him not being a true leader.….mostly, I’m sick of the hypocrisy:
1.The White House is flying the flag at half mast. Half mast. We’ve lost 3,308 (as of this morning) soldiers in Iraq and I wish we were flying our flags at half mast every day, so no one can forget that our soldiers are stuck in a civil war in another country.
2. Bush immediately released a statement and managed to “speak” at the convocation for the dead students today.
Let’s get in our time machine.
Sept. 11, 2001: Planes hit NY, PA and DC. Our president is nowhere to be found. I, like most of the country, sat glued to the images on my TV screen and there was no statement from the president for hours. We didn’t even see him until Sept. 14th. All of those idiots who voted for this shrubbery because of “9/11” are fucking clueless morons because they don’t remember that Commander Codpiece went into hiding for three days while the lapdog media made stupid, lazy excuses to cover his ass.
Oct 2002: Snipers are in the president’s back yard in VA and not once did he make a statement. Not once did he appear to console the victims. He did manage to show up and do typical photo op days after the police caught the nutjobs.
Aug. 28, 2005: Hurricane Katrina hits the Gulf Coast. For four days before the hurricane hit, it was all people were talking about. Everyone knew it was going to hit. Everyone knew it was going to be bad. Where was Bush? Eating birthday case with …John McCain. Strumming a guitar with some random country singer. The press asked him about Katrina and he had no comment.
How come, president Bubble Boy managed not to know that a category five storm was hitting a historically relevant chunk of the US. It wasn’t until four days later that he actually deigned to do a photo-op in the Gulf Coast. Far, far, far away from the people affected by it.
The following links and posts are artistic, creative, beautiful women’s work. I’ve included them because they are powerful and inspiring.
I am a Woman by Sheema Kalbasi
I am a woman
I am the river
I am the sky
I am the clouded covered trees upon the mountain
I am the fertile earth whose song the plants drink deep
I am the long line of tribes
I am the long line of faiths…
These blogs are visually stunning:
This concludes the First Carnival of Radical Feminists. Thank you for your patience!
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