This is an edited version of an excerpt of something I wrote to someone close to me about some of the events of the past couple of weeks. I thought there might be some value in posting it here. — Heart
Dear Person I Love,
My philosophy is to allow radical feminist women to comment pretty much as they choose, even when I personally do not agree with what they might have to say. Radical feminism is grass roots and always has been. It is understood ahead of time that one woman never speaks for all, but that each woman’s voice is important. When I see something I find really objectionable, I sometimes might speak up and voice my objections; that is, again, consistent with radical feminist practice. Everybody has and expresses her own opinion.
But the fact that one feminist, or radical feminist, writes something, should never in my view be understood to mean anything more than that that is her view. And one woman writing something, no matter what it is, never obligates anyone to respond, whether she agrees or disagrees.
One reason I would support a woman’s right to say she wished she had not brought a son into the world if it meant he would grow to oppress women is, it brings certain things into focus, things like gynocide. Every single day, hundreds, thousands, of female fetuses are aborted in India and China, specifically, for one reason: because they are female. That’s the only reason. Their mothers and fathers don’t say they wish they’d aborted their girl children, they simply and unapologetically abort their girl children. The end. What this means is that in 20, 30 years, the populations of India and China will be predominantly male, far more adult men than adult women will be alive, with potentially dire results, because whenever this has happened, historically, wars happen, and lots of people die.
When a woman says, “If I knew I’d raise a son who would use pornography, I’d never have given birth to him,” and people react negatively to that, it gives us an opportunity to talk about the millions of female fetuses aborted every year because they are girls and to ask, “Where is the outrage? Where is the grief? Who even knows about this?” It gives us an opportunity to talk about such ongoing acts of femicide as “honor killings” which occur every day in every culture throughout the world in which parents do not only express remorse over having given birth to their daughters, they openly and unapologetically murder their daughters, or sisters, or mothers, or woman partners. And again, this is
considered barely worth discussing. Yet let a mother say she regrets having born her son and she has crossed that line no woman may cross in which she has assumed, not only full responsibility for her life, her body, her offspring, but in which she claims her power over life and death, a power viewed as the prerogative of men and forbidden to women by men until very recently.
You see, for me, this is in part about discourse. It is about creating public conversations which illuminate and challenge a sexist and misogynist status quo which exists throughout the world and which goes, largely, unchallenged.
I do not propose a man tax because men are incarcerated in larger numbers than women. I propose a man tax because 95 percent of the violence in the world is committed by men, and yet women must pay, financially and in all sorts of ways, for the consequences of this violence anyway. Are all men violent? Heck no! And thank god for that. But men are, in fact, far more violent than women are. Then, what would the man tax be used for? Many things, among them, to address the problem of male violence, beginning, for example, with identifying boys in their toddler and elementary years who are at risk for violent behavior, and supporting them, getting help that they need so that they do not turn into violent men, so that they do not enter the revolving door of juvenile detention, foster care, and adult prison. A hundred dollars per year, per man, is not that much money. but it could begin to address the way boys are raised to be violent.
Proceeds of the “man tax” could also be used to reform the prison system, to explore transformative/restorative justice models, to confront and challenge militarism and violence in all forms. Since by and large it is men who fight and kill in war, men who kill men and women, men who are violent, it makes sense that men bear the burden of the paradigm shift which needs to take place so that violence might come to an end.
I will not mince words here: I hate pornography. I believe it is hate speech against women. And especially pornography as it exists today. Do I fault little boys or girls who see it and are affected by it? No, it’s happened to all of us. Do I fault those who make and traffic in it? Yes I do. This is deadly, deadly, hateful stuff that destroys the lives of girls, women, boys and men. Do I understand why a woman might say that if she had known her son would use pornography, she might have thought twice before going through with her pregnancy? Yes, I do. Because pornography hurts women, and as women, we are under no obligation to participate in any way in what harms us and other women. This particular discussion is a discussion we sorely need to have if the world is ever to change.
I have also been devastated, over and over and over in my life, by the violence of men– sexual violence, physical brutality, spiritual, emotional, verbal violence, violence of all kinds which have often made my and other women’s lives a living hell. I want the world to pay attention to the violence that harms us all– not only little girls, but little boys, not only women, but men. This is violence we are so accustomed to, so inured to, so used to, that it doesn’t even fly across our radar as violence– the violence of pornography, the violence of female infanticide, of “honor killings,” the violence and pandemic-ness of domestic violence and rape. To get the world’s attention, those of us who have been devastated by this violence must have a voice and our voices must be heard, however raw or unforgiving or raging or angry or bitter or not-motherly, not nurturing, fearsome, and yes, powerful and unapologetically so. Women who comment to my boards and blog, all them, have their own stories to tell. All have lived through indescribable horror at the hands of men. It does not set well, it’s true, for mothers to wish their sons not born. Mothers, of all people, are expected to be endlessly loving and nurturing, even when it costs us our very lives, everything we have, are or could be. But this is wrong and it must end. And in increasing numbers, women have to be brave enough to say this is wrong. What is expected of mothers is wrong. What is expected of women — that we act in ways which harm us — is wrong.
My experience is that men do indeed attack strong women. Men do work very hard to silence women who speak up and don’t back down and won’t back down. This is my reality, my lived experience, for all of my life. Does that mean that I think ALL men do whatever it is? Heck no. Anymore than when I say “white people,” I mean that every last white person does whatever it might be. If it doesn’t apply to a given white person, or a given man, then it isn’t for that person, or for that man, you know? To say that men in large numbers are violent against women, rape women, hurt women, use sexist or misogynist pornography. is to speak the truth. We all know that this is not true of ALL men and we are grateful for that!
There are some good men writers whose work I think you’d find interesting, even if you didn’t agree with it all. Among these men are John Stoltenberg (husband of the late Andrea Dworkin), Robert Jensen (who is an anti-pornography writer, speaker and activist), and Jackson Katz, a writer who produces films and materials for domestic violence shelters and groups and who works with men who batter and abuse. There are others, but if you read these guys, you will, I think, get a sense of where I am coming from and radical feminists are coming from. In fact of all feminists, we, as radical feminists, are the most pro-male, because we believe men don’t have to be violent, boys don’t have to be violent, they are not “born” that way, violence is learned and it can be unlearned. It is men like this whom I’d appoint to head up commissions to study and address problems of violence in young boys, for example.
Sociopaths and psychopaths like Hitler and Mussolini and David Duke, haters in general, believe that certain groups of people are naturally bad, wrong, biologically or genetically predetermined to certain behaviors or to inferiority. No radical feminist I know believes this about any group, including men. The most hardcore radical feminists, Mary Daly, Andrea Dworkin, Sonia Johnson, agree that there is nothing genetically or biologically predetermined such that men/boys are certain or destined to behave in ways that are destructive. That’s the reason for the urgency, you know? If it doesn’t have to be this way, then why is it? How can we make the world a better place, given that we know change is ours to make?
Realize that I have been thinking for years about all I have gone through in my life as a woman, and because I am a woman — being nearly beaten to death, being raped, being brutalized by male partners for so many years, being brutalized by patriarchal religion and organizations — and at this point in my life, I can’t do anything but whatever I can to make what I have gone through mean something, to redeem it, to make knowledge out of it, to make theory out of it, in the hopes that it isn’t wasted. This is part of saving my own life, not only for my sake, but for my children’s and grandchildren’s sakes, and for the sake of all whose lives I have touched and influenced, and especially, for the sake of women, in the hopes that one day the world will be a better place. Bottom line that’s what feminism is about — women, saving our own lives, saving women’s lives.