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Pre-2008 Posts

In Memory of Jane Rule (March 28, 1931-November 27, 2007)


Canadian author and lesbian rights activist Jane Rule passed away last week from liver cancer.   A women’s and lesbian rights activist before Second Wave feminism and Stonewall, Rule’s life and work were pioneering, creative and always courageous.   Her book Desert of the Heart, published in Canada in 1964 was, as one writer described it, “the first literary novel with a lesbian theme in which the protagonists were not somehow punished for their sexuality, thought to be ‘inverts’, or deviant, or whose author, because of the subject matter, felt obliged to publish under a pseudonym.”   The book was made into a movie,  Desert Hearts, in 1986, by Donna Deitsch and was the first lesbian-themed feature film written and directed by a woman.

Over the years, Rule wrote many other books and essays, mentored young writers, operated a mortgage and loan business in which she helped people who would otherwise not have been able to obtain loans, and was an activist in the lesbian community.  

Although she and her partner, Helen Sonthoff, had a relationship which spanned 45 years and lasted until Helen’s death in 2000, Rule was staunchly anti-marriage, including anti-lesbian marriage.  Perhaps posting the following essay which Rule wrote in September 2000 might be a fitting tribute to a brilliant leader who modeled courage, integrity and compassion as well. 

The Heterosexual Cage of Coupledom

Over thirty years ago, when homosexual acts between consenting adults were decriminalized, Trudeau said that the government had no business in the bedrooms of the nation.

Until a few months ago that privacy was respected.

Now the government has passed a law including gay and lesbian couples as common-law partners with the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual common-law partners. Any of us who have lived together in a sexual relationship for over two years must declare ourselves on our income tax forms, or we are breaking the law.

With one stroke of the pen all gay and lesbian couples in Canada have been either outed if they declare or recriminalized if they do not. Our bedroom doors have come off their legal hinges.

Why then is there such support for this new law among gay people? Svend Robinson spoke in favor of it the House. EGALE, the national organization for gays and lesbians, encouraged its passing.

It is celebrated by all of them as a step along the road to total social acceptance, to a day when those of us who wish to can be legally married, our relationships just as respectable as those of heterosexuals.

But common-law partnerships were never about respectability. They were forced on couples as a way of protecting women and children from men who, by refusing to marry, were trying to avoid responsibility, free to move on when they felt like it without legal burdens of alimony and child support, without claims on their property or pensions.

There are some gay and lesbian couples raising children who, because they are not allowed to marry, may find a common-law partnership useful for benefits in tax relief, health benefits, pensions, if they can afford to expose themselves to the homophobia still rampant in this country. The law may also protect those who are financially dependent on their partners from being cast aside without financial aid.

But the law, far from conferring respectability, simply forces financial responsibility on those perceived to be irresponsible without it. What about those poor who are unable to work because they are single parents or ill or disabled?

The single mother on welfare has long had her privacy invaded by social workers looking for live-in men who should be expected to support her and another man’s children. Now single mothers must beware of live-in women as well. The ill and disabled will also be forced to live alone or sacrifice their benefits if their partners have work.  

Over the years when we have been left to live lawless, a great many of us have learned to take responsibility for ourselves and each other, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, not bound by the marriage service or model but on singularities and groupings of our own invention.

To be forced back into the heterosexual cage of coupledom is not a step forward but a step back into state-imposed definitions of relationship. With all that we have learned, we should be helping our heterosexual brothers and sisters out of their state-defined prisons, not volunteering to join them there.

We should all accept responsibility for those who must be dependent, children, the old, the ill and the disabled, by assuring that our tax dollars are spent for their care. We should not have any part in supporting laws which promote unequal relationships between adults, unnecessary dependencies, false positions of power.

No responsible citizen should allow the state to privatize the welfare of those in need, to make them victims to the abilities and whims of their “legal” keepers. Human rights are the core responsibility of the government.

The regulation of adult human relationships is not.

To trade the freedom we have had to invent our own lives for state-imposed coupledom does not make us any more respectable in the eyes of those who enjoy passing judgment. We become instead children clambering for rule, for consequences to be imposed on us instead of self-respecting, self-defining adults.

Those of us who want to legalize our relationships for the protection of our children, for our own security, for whatever reason, should have the right to do so but not at the expense of imposing that condition on all the rest if us.

What we have now is neither the right to marry nor the right to remain private and independent in our relationships.

What kind of victory is that? 

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47 thoughts on “In Memory of Jane Rule (March 28, 1931-November 27, 2007)

  1. wow. my eyes are Open. i always supported same-sex marriages (whatever it may be called) because i thought i was being supportive of the community. this really makes me think.

    Posted by avril joy | December 2, 2007, 10:46 pm
  2. Thank you SO MUCH for this eulogy and especially for the essay. I just linked to it at my website’s tribute to Jane — what a great resource you provide, Heart.

    Posted by Maggie Jochild | December 2, 2007, 11:55 pm
  3. What a fantastic essay – thank you for sharing it!

    And I didn’t know about this –

    “Any of us who have lived together in a sexual relationship for over two years must declare ourselves on our income tax forms, or we are breaking the law.”

    That is absurd! Who defines “sexual”? How can the law-makers tell the difference between two non-sexually-involved women living together and two sexually-involved women living together? What about women in romantic friendships/Boston Marriages, who are committed to each other as partners but might not have sex? Why is “living together in a sexual relationship for over two years” used to define lesbian couples, when there are plenty of hetero couples who are married but don’t have sex, or only “have sex” when the man rapes the woman? Why are relationships defined and valued by their presence or absence of sex? Are two women who have lived together for two years but stopped having sex a year ago considered partners under this law, or not? Is there a requirement for how frequent/recent the sex is? Who decides/judges/checks? Because governments never just take a woman’s word for something, you know? Would a single mother only be able to receive welfare benefits if she could prove she wasn’t having sex with the woman living with her? How would she convince the government?

    It’s just so ridiculous and nonsensical. What is the penalty for not declaring a lesbian relationship? How does this happen? Are there links to cases like this?

    Posted by Eeni B. Bella | December 3, 2007, 3:40 am
  4. Thanks for posting this Heart! Jane Rule is so important to so many of us! This last essay of her’s is pure genius!

    Posted by Satsuma | December 3, 2007, 3:58 am
  5. Jane Rule !presente!

    Posted by profacero | December 3, 2007, 6:13 am
  6. I’m relatively new to this feminist blogging lark, but am increasingly seeing the value of this site. It is an amazing resource, and just feels like a wonderful place to come to, and I always learn something. It is such an achievement to have created this space, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

    I feel a bit stupid as I had never heard of Jane Rule before reading this post, but it sounds like she was such a wonderful person, you’ve made me want to go and find out more about her!

    Thanks x

    Posted by Debs | December 3, 2007, 3:28 pm
  7. I may be old-fashioned, but radfem theory way-back-when always thought of “marriage” as a institution based on sexual relationship as property exchange, whether gay, straight or whatever-you-call-it, and hence deeply rooted in patriarchy.

    Its all about money and property. Governments don’t care about morality, but they do care about money.

    My elderly mother lived with an elderly man as a room-mate, but in state welfare housing. They were hassled to declare themselves a “couple” so they could be moved into “married” accommodation, and have their aged social security benefits reduced. Similarly of cases of govt scholarships recipients who share a flat or house at Uni or college.

    And yet pairs like siblings who have lived with and cared for each other for 30+ years, can’t get access to benefits? Because they dont have a sexual relationship.. *sigh*

    High-profile lesbian divorce cases, complete with bitter child custody battles, suing for reimbursement of IVF, and so on. Then comedy movies about any two same-sex people ‘pretending’ to be married, just so they can access benefits. Lobbyists for legal gay marriage, are generally wealthy lawyers, accountants etc. If there was no money in it, they probably wouldn’t be so pushy about it.

    Andrea Dworkin said “Marriage = prostitution” because it frames a sexual relationship as a material property exchange, and as a patriarchal institution supporting the patriarchal Nuclear Family. Doesn’t matter if its gay or straight.

    I dont support gay marriage, because I dodn’t support “marriage” for *anybody* 🙂

    “No responsible citizen should allow the state to privatize the welfare of those in need, to make them victims to the abilities and whims of their “legal” keepers.”


    Posted by Rain | December 3, 2007, 8:08 pm
  8. Debs, I’m so glad you discovered Jane Rule. There are hundreds of women like her all over the world. Her books are complex and wonderful, and I think you might find her political essays thought provoking.

    She was one of the great ones! I still hear stories from women who met her or knew her or had a cigarette with her on the back veranda of “Old Wives Tales” bookstore in San Francisco — also, long out of business.

    One of my best friends adored her, and we had thousands of hours of conversations about her books and life over the past 20 years.

    Even going to “Desert of the Heart” the movie based on her book in San Francisco in 1986, was an adventure. My partner and I were new to San Francisco, and we were trying to find the movie theater. We looked up ahead and saw two women holding hands. “Let’s follow that lesbian couple and we’ll find the movie!” I said. Sure enough, we did that and they led us right to the theater!

    It’s a cherished memory of Jane Rule and the movies!

    Jane Rule embodies freedom, democracy and the power of a life lived well. She is an example to us all!!

    Posted by Satsuma | December 3, 2007, 8:29 pm
  9. Eeni, someone knowledgeable from Canada will have to ask answer all of those questions! 🙂 This was written by Rule just after the law was passed recognizing same sex partners who live together as common law partnerships. I do not know what might have happened since then.

    Rain, not sure if this is what you were thinking, but I thought about it so will take my opportunity to say something in case others are not clear, where Rule is talking about laws being made by the government with the intention of keeping men from bailing on their responsibilities to children, she is talking about heterosexual common law relationships, i.e., the way governments in the U.S. and Canada, not sure about other countries, recognized people who are not legally married *as* “common law” partners. The law Rule is writing about caused same sex relationships to be recognized as “common law partnerships”, as opposed to regular civil/religious marriages. Not every state in the U.S. recognizes “common law” relationships, but some do. It sounds like common law het relationships were uniformly recognized in Canada when this law was passed.

    Posted by womensspace | December 3, 2007, 8:45 pm
  10. Eeni, love your avatar!

    Posted by womensspace | December 3, 2007, 8:47 pm
  11. Just a quick Google find:

    google “Helen Sonthoff” and then read “The Square Table” entry on the life of Jane Rule and Helen Sonthoff.

    I think this is a beautiful love story of two old women, and a rare glimpse into a lesbian home. Straight women should read these stories, it will give you ideas of how lesbians live, and how we create art within partnerships that are about non-government controlled equality.

    This literary world of lesbians is just remarkable, and I’ve been lucky to have been a part of this for decades as well. I always look for lesbian couples who come closest to my life, I guess as role models and inspiration, but also because we are so rare in the world. You won’t see us on T.V., you won’t see us by the hundreds at a New Year’s party in Vienna. We tend to be in our own personal spaces, our own dinner tables. We exist out of our own imagination, the select few who can rise above all the intolerance of the social structure around us.

    The Square Table:
    They even mention Judy Baca and her “Great Wall of Los Angeles” Baca is a great lesbian arts activist in Los Angeles, and she and a group of people of all backgrounds painted what used to be the world’s longest mural. It is the herstory/history of California and has lesbian rights, native Americans, the true ethnic background of Thomas Edison!

    Drive down Coldwater Canyon — Exit Coldwater off the 134/101 Ventura Freeway in Los Angeles. To your right will be a long parkway, and on the left as you head north is Baca’s ‘Great Wall” painted on a long slab of cement that is a water freeway in and of itself!
    Just amazing that she knew Jane Rule, and is mentioned in this HEAVENLY article by Lynn Strongin.

    Such a life well lived! Amazing and I feel proud to be a part of this lesbian artistic tradition, and a lesbian life that is rich and fascinating and full of passion. Since I turned 50 this year, I think of how I celebrated my 50th, and this article tells about Jane Rule’s 50th party as well.

    I think all lesbians are in search of a homeland and a culture of our own, and the power of lesbians at a dinner party talking art, politics and everything is just magic beyond belief. We fight for our spaces, we long for the company of our own in between the boundaries of a hostile erasing world.

    Jane Rule is one of our best and brightest, and I know I’m going to spend the entire week doing google searches and reading more about her yet again! I’m going to celebrate writing, and great literature and celebrate the art of lesbians all over my home! I may even have a toast to Jane– she loved good scotch! She smoked like a chimney stack — she knew the art of friendship.

    I hope all lesbians in their early 20s have a chance to enter these worlds. We’re always celebrating and welcoming lesbians in our home, cooking great meals, encouraging and helping the next generation see what this life is all about.

    It’s the salon! It’s about sisterhood, it’s about a fright fire burning on a cold night, and the light shining out into the woods. It’s about hearing soft voices outside on the street as you dreamily look out upon a winter’s sunset.

    I could go on and on! This week is going to be amazing! Thank the goddess for the Internet, for this blog and for all the wonderful things everyone here is saying about Jane!

    Isn’t life grand!

    Posted by Satsuma | December 3, 2007, 11:02 pm
  12. Hey Debs! Thanks for the good words, and right back your way! You did such a great job on the most recent Carnival of Feminists and I was thinking, dang, I love it when radfems host the regular carnival. 🙂

    I am adding you to my blogroll. 🙂

    Posted by womensspace | December 3, 2007, 11:28 pm
  13. Like another poster, this really makes me think – I, too, had always assumed that same sex marriage = equality. And of course, it does, but I had never considered that it might be the same equality that radfems want to AVOID: the equality of men and women having equal amounts of body-hatred, of women and men being equally afraid of the draft, of women and men who are raped in pandemic numbers equally, etc.

    Posted by Embyr Arrikanez | December 4, 2007, 1:13 am
  14. I have only just discovered Jane Rule through several blogs this week, and cannot wait to honour her memory by reading one of her books (on request at my library as we speak). I am fascinated by what I have learned so far.

    Satsuma – do you have a blog? I am utterly captivated just by your comments here – would love to read more of your writing.


    Posted by jen | December 4, 2007, 3:44 am
  15. Dear Jen,

    Alas, I have no blog. But when I do, I’ll put a post here and invite everyone over for Internet cyber tea from Siberia.

    In the meantime, good for you for putting in your Jane Rule book order at the local library! Jane would be delighted I’m sure.

    Enjoy and savor, and then write your own novel or essay!

    Posted by Satsuma | December 4, 2007, 5:53 am
  16. ..where Rule is talking about laws being made by the government with the intention of keeping men from bailing on their responsibilities to children, she is talking about heterosexual common law relationships, … The law Rule is writing about caused same sex relationships to be recognized as “common law partnerships”,

    Yes, in Australia what you call ‘common law’ partnerships have long been recognised for het relationships in terms of the federal Family Law Act 1975, which covers both property and child support/custody. Late 1980s some amendments established the federal ‘Child Support Agency’, (CSA) which is part of the federal govt income tax office.

    Non-custodial parents (usually fathers) have child support garnisheed from wages/salary (even from their welfare benefits, if thats all they get). The child support is cut every pay-check automatically transferred to the custodial parent, whether they are married or not.

    By the 1990s, same-sex partnerships were recognised under the Family Law Act in the same way as het common law ones, and so it’s been old hat in Oz for 15+ years in some aspects, like gay divorces hitting the headlines as tawdry tabloid soap-operas, and long accepted as no different to het ones. Along with tales of gay DV and all the other things that we are familiar with het partnerships.

    As Rule mentions in her great long list of problems with joining the “het world” under such laws, we’ve ‘been there, done that’ (and our LGBT lobby groups want even more? *sheesh*)

    As she mentions:
    To be forced back into the heterosexual cage of coupledom is not a step forward but a step back into state-imposed definitions of relationship.

    With all that we have learned, we should be helping our heterosexual brothers and sisters out of their state-defined prisons, not volunteering to join them there.

    I’ll second that!!

    Posted by Rain | December 4, 2007, 12:37 pm
  17. A brilliant essay which really lays out the problems with legal marriage. Reminds me of what Sonia Johnson called coupledom – coupledumb. LOL!

    RIP Jane Rule, one of our best.

    Posted by Branjor | December 4, 2007, 12:56 pm
  18. Perhaps the best thing to do is to say no one will fund other people’s relationships. If you have no children, you do not use the tax code to pay for other people’s children. If you have social security it is equally available to all, and has no connection to marriage whatsoever.

    There would be no tax advantages for either lesbian or heterosexual couples period. Everyone would know in advance that it would be pay as you go.

    Medical care and housing could cover the basics for all equally, and the entire society would help with this. If you wanted a grander life, you’d simply work smarter. If you wanted a simpler life, we have all kinds of things for people to do to enhance the quality of life for us all.

    I’ve always loved street musicians; they add so much to the world, for example. Graffitti criminals could be taken to art schools, since it is a form of creativity not well placed.

    I think Jane had some real warnings about the state and the nature of lesbian relationships. It is the state intervention that I think causes heterosexuality to be so problematic in the first place.

    The most oppressive time for lesbians was in the supposed “golden age” of American families — when heterosexuals ruled the roost, but when this dreadful family unit started to crumble and be exposed for the fraud it was, suddenly lesbians and gays had a kind of moral authority over our own lives.

    Marriage as an institution has never been very good for women, and I think it often turned men into the workaholic drones in the corporate world. The drones seeth with anger over the daily humiliations of office life, and so they have to scream their heads off at football games or boxing matches, or perhaps they go home and beat their wives.

    I do find it weird that the GLBT establishment seems to go after all the most silly things — gay marriage, gays in the military… if it’s dull and corporate, they’re for it.

    But the truth is, I know no gay or lesbian couples who have been together for any length of time at all, and I know most gay men seem completely uninterested in this life.

    So who is really behind all of this? A whole new generation of gay and lesbian leadership that was raised during the Reagan era? The children of the baby boomers longing for the lost world? Where does all this gay “public policy” come from anyway?

    Funny how Jane’s essay on gay marriage in Canada never really reached a wide audience in the U.S. The most interesting essays and ideas aren’t even in the “gay” press anymore, and this lack of grass roots reporting really bothers me a lot. I guess that’s why we have blogs!

    Posted by Satsuma | December 4, 2007, 8:13 pm
  19. Perhaps the best thing to do is to say no one will fund other people’s relationships. If you have no children, you do not use the tax code to pay for other people’s children. If you have social security it is equally available to all, and has no connection to marriage whatsoever.

    I think all children and all human beings should have access to health care, dental care, housing, education and food without regard for who birthed who or who is whose mother or who is related to whom. I think people should be able to buy houses together or will their possessions to one another or visit each other in intensive care without being family members or married.

    If we are not going to be willing to socialize medicine, education, housing and basic subsistence, I think whatever benefits are currently available to domestic partners/married people should be available to all, single or married.

    I think we’ll have to think more deeply about children than to say, “You had them, you provide for them,” though, at least so long as women are second class citizens and disenfranchised in many ways. I think something like that those who want to provide for children should be able to, and should share in the benefits their providing entitles them to; i.e., if people elect to have their taxes earmarked for the support of kids, they should receive material benefits for that, of some kind, in some way. I don’t think anybody should be forced to pay for children with whom they want no relationship, including fathers paying for children they want nothing to do with. I don’t think caring for children is “work” or should be compensated as “work.” I think having children is about relationship. I think it is wrongheaded to view any relationships as “work,” including relationships with children. If that’s what they are, they are not relationships and are detrimental to the people in them, especially the children. I think our culture is vested in all of this talk about how valorous it is to “work” on one’s “relationships” and that relationships are “hard work,” in that that way, when marriages, families, etc. fail, it’s the fault of those in them who didn’t “work” hard enough, rather than the fault of a patriarchal, male heterosupremacist paradigm which is inherently anti-human and destructive of human love.

    I think all who care about children should be free to love and support them in various ways and those who don’t want to should be exempt. But those who exempt themselves should also be ineligible for all that children provide to the world, especially the fruits of children’s horrifically unjust indentured servitude in sweatshops and in agriculture. The presence of those who opt out of contributing to the care of children, amongst children, should be regulated somewhat, just as the presence of children amongst adults is regulated (i.e., adult-only facilities). If adults have the right to dine/watch performances/live in places without the presence of children, children should have the right to dine/watch performances/live in places without the presence of adults who have elected not to support or care for them.

    I think that those who invest their lives or money in children ought to receive discounts on the work that the adults those children become do, whatever it might be. Those who have not invested their lives or money in children ought to pay full price, since they did not participate in supporting the various systems which allowed for children to grow into responsible, working, tax-paying, artists or professionals or working class people or whatever. I think this should also apply to parents. I think if mothers and fathers do not want the children they have birthed/fathered, they should be allowed to opt out and should not be eligible for the discounts available to those who elect to invest their lives or money in children. I think their presence among children should be regulated somewhat, and that children and those who care for children should be free to designate various areas/living accommodations/facilities as for children and those who invest in the lives of children only.

    I think the further our world moves away from celebrating motherhood, traditional families, romance, marriage, etc., the more likely it will be that women will actually decide to bear children for the sake of relationships with children and for no other reason. I think women should be free to do this if they want to without naming the child’s biological father. I don’t think any man should have access to children just because he fathered them. I think he should have to evidence, in some way, a desire to have a relationship with the children, their mother, and all who care about children.

    Some thoughts.

    Posted by womensspace | December 4, 2007, 8:53 pm
  20. This is one reason I oppose the current child support system. It shores up the patriarchal belief that children belong to men just because those men had sex with the child’s mother. Donating sperm doesn’t mean anything except that a man donated sperm. It doesn’t make him a father, doesn’t make him someone who wants anything to do with kids, let alone who wants a relationship with the child he has fathered.

    Posted by womensspace | December 4, 2007, 9:16 pm
  21. Having said all of that, I don’t think at the moment we have any choice but to enforce the current child support system. I just think it’s wrong-headed from the perspective of feminism and that we have to envision and create something much, much more satisfactory over the long term.

    Posted by womensspace | December 4, 2007, 9:33 pm
  22. And of course, to fund the revolutionary system I am envisioning, we would begin by assessing the man tax, a modest, $100 per year tax on all adult men earning more than the median wage.

    Posted by womensspace | December 4, 2007, 10:08 pm
  23. Thanks for all your great envisaging words here, Heart. Especially for bringing up the idea that blood, or sperm and even egg ties shouldn’t be valorised. Generally, ownership and control of children and women by men is perpetuated still, even when couched as “responsibility to”.

    I started to respond in this thread when it was very new then went and wrote a post at my own blog. I’d been reading powerful truth-telling by women in places outside the obviously feminist part of the ‘sphere that day, and was heavy with accounts of the atrocities wrought on women within families.

    I’ve been all about questioning, examining and breaking down compulsory pairing for some time, and am stunned that this is one item on the feminist agenda from much earlier times that seemed to have been so heavily disappeared.

    Coupledom. Coupledumb. Coupleism. It’s an ‘ism, same as any other, and one I think absolutely central.

    I think it’s still possible to google ‘coupleism’ and come up with some info, mostly from a few decades ago.

    I’m not even saying people would or could never choose to pair up, for greater or lesser periods of time if compulsory pairing were broken down. Only that we should all be absolutely free to choose, whether to, when to and for how long when chosen. Residual bonds after any parting of ways would be of relationship only, not MAN-made mores and especially not laws drawn in service of men.

    Posted by starfish | December 5, 2007, 2:09 am
  24. I totally agree with Heart. Caring for children isn’t ‘work’. And this is a comment from someone who works in the child care industry. Sometimes I feel guilty that I am doing something that I don’t really agree with ie. taking money for building relationships and caring for kids. But I don’t know what else I could possible do with myself. I don’t know how to do anything besides care for kids. And most other jobs seem pretty pointless and boring to me. Caring for kids is something that has meaning. Child care as an industry destroys that meaning, putting a monetary value on a child carer relationship. It is really sickening and I have worked briefly in centres that have made my skin crawl and sent me to bed crying every night. I’m really lucky to have found a job in a centre that is staffed by beautifully warm and caring women in a very child and family-centred environment. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with the ‘job’ that I do. The child care industry is very bad for women and very bad for children. I wonder what kind of adults that paid care produces. And what it does to the lives of women who already have children and have to divide their time, energy, love and emotional resources between the children they are paid to care for and the children their own children. Most of the women I worked with in the money-making centres were women from non-english speaking backgrounds. They were classed as ‘unskilled’ even after years of raising their own children. Minimum wage, shitty stressful working conditions, disrespectful management, unpaid hours. The women were exploited in every concievable way. The child care industry sucks. I like community based child care and famliy day care and nannying. But there is still the principle of being paid for relationships with children. Which is wrong and unjust. At the International Feminist Summit a woman presented a paper sayning that Child Care was a rad fem issue. I agree but she made no mention the working conditions of the women in the industry. She also didn’t talk about alternative models. Caring for children in a rad fem way surely should not involve the exchange of money.

    This raises questions about teaching and schooling. Is education a job? Or is it also a relationship? I know for a fact that the only teachers who taught me anything in school were the ones that built relationships with me. Money really is a serious impediment to the human economy. The human economy is made of social relationships, nature, creativity, animals, knowledge, accomplishment, passion, love. Money can speak to none of that.

    Maybe one day I’ll see a world that is free of that particular patriarchal affliction. That will be a beautiful day.

    Posted by allecto | December 5, 2007, 12:50 pm
  25. ***This raises questions about teaching and schooling. Is education a job? Or is it also a relationship? I know for a fact that the only teachers who taught me anything in school were the ones that built relationships with me.***

    Yep. And the only therapist who ever helped me was the one who built a relationship with me.

    Posted by Branjor | December 5, 2007, 4:59 pm
  26. I think the problem here is that work, especially and typically the work of women through the centuries, involves relationships. Sometimes work is nearly all relationship and very little material product; therapy and teaching come to mind as examples of this. As the economy develops and technology frees us from more and more time-consuming, physical labor, our work becomes more and more about dealing with other people — relationships, in other words.

    Getting paid for our work, when that work involves relationship-building, then appears to pollute or compromise the motives of all involved. I am not going to declare that this isn’t so. I am simply going to say that work that involves relationships has to be this way — ambiguous, ambivalent, full of mixed motives, genuine delight, personal gain, exchange of goods, and complexity.

    This welter of mixed emotions frustrates anybody who wants to define relationships as only about love or friendship. Maybe that same person concedes and even lauds that her relationships are about “sharing resources.” That’s just another way of saying “exchange of property”. All relationships of any depth involve the exchange of property of some sort. Money is just a medium of exhange, denoting the value given and taken.

    Rather than denouncing capitalism and scheming for a utopia that will never come — where everybody works and gets paid only according to her needs, not her work’s perceived value delivered to others — let’s be practical and deal with human beings, yes even radical feminists, as they are — people who want, need, and like to get paid for what they do. Much of that work will involve the building of relationships. Money does not pollute those relationships, but it does play a role in defining them.

    As a way of illustrating this last point, I ask Branjor, “Would that therapist who built a relationship with you have seen you and other clients for free?” I doubt it — that’s hard work listening to patients whine and struggle with their own blindness. That’s why our friends sigh and ask us if we consulted a professional. But taking your money did not indicate that your therapist didn’t care for you; she most probably did, but she wouldn’t have done it for free. Now that’s a complex relationship!

    Posted by twitch | December 6, 2007, 1:40 pm
  27. Sharing resources is not necessarily the same as exchange of property. I think it can also be gift giving, either one sided or mutual.

    As to your question about my therapist, twitch, would she have seen me or anyone else for free? Nope – she had to make a living. But we did subsequently take a rather unusual step – accomplished professionally and with integrity by her – of becoming friends later on. We have now been friends for a quarter of a century and it has worked fine for both of us. She is pretty much the same person I knew as a therapist except that she doesn’t “do therapy” with me anymore, of course, and she is not as available to me time-wise as she was when she was my therapist. And being friends is free, of course.

    ***Money really is a serious impediment to the human economy. The human economy is made of social relationships, nature, creativity, animals, knowledge, accomplishment, passion, love. Money can speak to none of that.

    Maybe one day I’ll see a world that is free of that particular patriarchal affliction. That will be a beautiful day.***

    Yes. Allecto, I am so with you on that.

    Posted by Branjor | December 6, 2007, 3:54 pm
  28. I used to do all kinds of things for free for women. Thousands of hours of very precious advice, that if taken, would have made them financially better off. I kept my files, so that 15 years later, I could check to see what would have happened if they had followed my advice. This was always an interesting experience for me.

    Then one day, I met with a lesbian couple, and I had worked my butt off coming up with a very good plan of action for them.
    They asked me how much it cost? And I said, “well what do you think my work’s value is to you?” They said, “nothing.”
    I’ll never forget that moment. It was a rude dismissal of all the work I had done, and since they said “nothing” I didn’t want to accept any money from them at all.

    They must have felt guilty about this, because a month or two later, they wrote and said they donated some money in my name to a non-profit. Of course, they didn’t send me a check.

    Now I do some work for free, but I do charge lesbians and other women for services that I used to give them for free. I simply got sick of the lack of gratitude or even common courtesy.

    You’d be surprised at the number of women who need money, then you send it, and then they don’t even say thank you! It’s the lack of gratitude that really bugs me, and this is epidemic in radical feminism in my opinion.

    I actually think my relationships with people are a million times better, with or without money involved. I am very clear about my standards, and if I sense I’m in the presense of a whiner who complains all the time, I leave that woman alone now. I don’t want to waste my time with women who will themselves into financial trouble, and then don’t admit that there are pretty common sense solutions out there.

    If I meet a woman who is a money whiner, I just refrain from talking about the subject with her. She will prevent good advice from coming to her, but she is more attached to the hatred of money, then the solutions you can have with it.

    It’s why a lot of women are poor in my opinion; they have an incredibly bad attitude toward money. Not women who get caught in bad circumstances, but there are hugely negative mean women out there, and I don’t want to listen to them. There has to be a mix of solutions and critiques. Sometimes there is a lot of critique, but no concrete solution. This can wear you down sometimes.

    Jane, by the way, since this is her blog, once said that she could have easily been an accountant. Most people don’t know about her mortgage business, and her financial saavy. Money is the great hidden story of lesbians in my opinion.

    I even met radical lesbian feminists who were the beneficiaries of trust funds, but they were totally in the closet about this, for fear of public attack in the community. Interesting isn’t it?

    Posted by Satsuma | December 7, 2007, 7:46 pm
  29. This has been an interesting interchange, and, as if the many different thoughts I’ve had on the subjects at different times have been expressed by others. Thank you for that. It is often so lonely believing neither in work (ie paid, loud, destructive of the planet, arrogant, greedy, lazy “work”) nor family, or couples or long-term committed relationships along the lines of marriage (again arrogant, complacent, non-revolutionary, and cramping of individual growth for women). Because “family values”and “working conditions” are main planks of left (right as well) political parties, and these people are elected to control our world in democracies, I feel disenfranchised, even if I weren’t a lesbian. Jane Rule was so right about “the bedroom” and privacy; and you are all right when you consider work giving and unrelated to dollars per hour. What those dollars per hour pay for is women’s souls. And the “cages of coupledom” hide such horrendous indignity and violence at times, there is nowhere to go. Culturally, physically, socially and politically, unfortunately, we are always way outside, Fin

    Posted by finoorad | December 8, 2007, 6:47 am
  30. Satsuma,

    Can I request that you please tone down the woman-blaming in your blog posts. This is a place of reprieve for most of us from the Patriarchy. You have a definite place here. Please, and if I am wrong Heart correct me. Heart’s blog is the most radical woman-space blog we have. I can ignore you, but newbies might get the wrong idea.

    Posted by kiuku | December 8, 2007, 10:41 am
  31. The thing is women do these things and are not blameless.

    Posted by Satsuma | December 9, 2007, 1:33 am
  32. Hey, finoorad, welcome, and wonderful comment, and also, thanks for the encouragement!

    Re: Money/the economy

    A huge gigantic subject, argh. I will come back and comment more about it because I have a few things I’d like to say.

    I wanted to quickly say, re blaming women:

    I agree that women are not blameless. But, I also think it isn’t helpful for us, as feminists, to blame women, with a very few exceptions. Blaming women doesn’t inspire them, encourage them, or raise their consciousnesses. It doesn’t open their eyes or enlighten them. It just condemns them and they close down. We can always find something to blame a woman for, and the whole patriarchal world loves to blame women for everything, so why participate in that? The idea isn’t to blame, I don’t think, but to figure out the best way to move forward, no matter how bad our decisions/choices might have been or what our current situation is. We can help each other best, I think, by leaving aside blame and judgmentalism and condemning attitudes and working towards deeper understanding of our situations as women and how to improve them. Robin Morgan said some great things about that, about not judging a woman based on who she is today, but on where she’s come from and where she’s going and what it’s cost her to get to where she is today.

    Feminist women are sharp and as women, they are also used to being blamed, degraded, humiliated and dehumanized. You don’t have to say a single word or raise a single eyebrow to them, they already know the bad choices they’ve made. They know their own weak spots and vulnerabilities. Blaming them, therefore, is like a pile-on. Best case, they go away wounded, discouraged and broken. That’s best case! Worst case, they dig in, become defensive, and turn on you. In the face of all that, sure, we can turn our backs on them because they’ve responded that way, but I don’t ever want to turn my back on a woman. Even if she hates me right now, I want to leave the door cracked open from my side. That being so, I don’t want to blame her. She knows. Women know. I’d rather focus, again, on how we can avoid the situations and mistakes we’ve made in the past and move on to make better lives for oursevelves.

    That said, I don’t hold myself up as any kind of anything. I’ve blamed women, too, and I regret it. I really don’t want to do that and just think it isn’t helpful.

    Posted by womensspace | December 9, 2007, 5:58 am
  33. I think I don’t see comentary as blaming, I see it as reporting things that happen. But I do see your larger point Heart.

    It’s always good to be reminded how to rise above “blame.”
    So I don’t necessarily blame women, but I do get bloody damn frustrated, so perhaps you are reading years of frustration built up.

    It’s the kind of frustration you feel when you actually know that women are getting power, and yet, we still have so long to go after all this work!

    So we can inspire each other– sometimes I just feel like a complete extremist in my opinions. I’ve lost the ability to be moderate in society, and I’ve grown so accustomed to tuning out homophobia and sexism, that I’ve actually grown deaf to all criticism, and thus utterly contemptuous.

    Contempt must clearly be a reaction to oppression, not an excuse, but a reaction.

    It’s why I have a great deal of difficulty with being consistent about anything at all. 🙂 But I am sincerely trying!

    It may be far harder for me to be connecting, but we can all try and learn. This space is about trying, about struggling with ideas, and it’s about attempting to be liberating, even when we are still angry.

    Since I saw my very hard line feminism as ultimately successful after a lifetime of effort, I tend to think I am right and the world is wrong. Lesbians who want to achieve will tune out everything in order to do this. We are self-made women in every sense of the world — self-made when there were no lesbians around growing up that we knew of, and self-made in our desire for a life that is about the heights of achievement, it is about our sense of success in a hostile world.

    So I feel that women have to know what is working and what is not. Because otherwise if we aren’t aware of how dangerous life can be without this knowlege, we’ll read the dental horror stories, and a new generation who could avoid a lot of this stuff might not be warned, and thus fall into the same trap.

    I often worry about women’s future, because they often ignore it to their peril 25-30 years later. For some reason, I was very concerned about these economic issues since the age of four or so. I put a high priority on all of this, because I believe that no straight women will ever come to my rescue should I become ill. I have no faith in a larger community whatsoever, and thus have become stubbornly individualistic in this department.

    I don’t trust straight women to come to my defense or to care about my economic welfare, and I won’t take the risk of letting other lesbians out there feel a false sense of security in straight controlled feminism.

    A minority within a minority will be much more suspicious of everything a majority says. We won’t believe most of it. But we will listen and comment. Just don’t expect belief.

    Posted by Satsuma | December 9, 2007, 7:40 pm
  34. Satsuma,
    “Contempt must clearly be a reaction to oppression, not an excuse, but a reaction.”

    I think that you are mistaken about this. Contempt is a tool of oppression, not a reaction to it. But you’re right, there really isn’t any excuse for it.

    Posted by thebewilderness | December 9, 2007, 11:26 pm
  35. ***I think that you are mistaken about this. Contempt is a tool of oppression, not a reaction to it. But you’re right, there really isn’t any excuse for it.***

    No, it can be a reaction too. I have felt a lot of contempt for my oppressors in my life. I feel it now.

    Posted by Branjor | December 10, 2007, 3:21 am

    THE THING IS, Satsuma, that THIS IS WOMEN”S SPACE. If you want to blame women for the things “women do” do it somewhere else.

    Posted by kiuku | December 10, 2007, 10:16 am
  37. Satsuma,

    In your post #28 you say upfront and unvarnished a lot of things that I think are true and that also make me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because for most of my life I was uninterested in the business of making money or spending much of it. Consequently, I was happy, but poor and increasingly anxious about my future.

    Being poor limited my options. It compromised my health, because I put off getting a problem diagnosed properly and that has led to a chronic condition. I experienced less of the world, because I couldn’t travel, couldn’t realistically support a lot of causes I believed in, couldn’t spend time with the scholarship that invigorated me.

    I felt powerless at work, always working for someone else. The little indignities that employees often suffer — the tinkering with your time card, the shortening of your hours, the imposition of seemingly meaningless work rules — those were mine. I felt as if a daily portion of my existence was in the grip of others. It was.

    Pressed to the wall at some point, I started my own business. Only fear of destitution and lack of imagination had stopped me before. Having a loving girlfriend who said she’d catch me if I fell was crucial to taking the plunge. I would wish that for every woman — a partner who morally supports her and assures her that she is not taking that risk alone, that there is a saftety net before the abyss.

    The dividends have been tremendous. My income went from $16,000/year to six figures. But iincome wasn’t the main gain. I have a sense of control over my own destiny. I discovered talents I never knew I had — client relations, communicating with teenagers, analytical skills, organization, innovation, administration . . . Running something and delivering a product (an intangible, knowledge-based thing, but a product nevertheless) benefits others. That feels great!

    But surely, the experience is most important to me, because it has changed the way I think. I look at problems and think about how I can solve them. I see others’ problems and think of solutions that might help them take more control over their lives. I share these thoughts and encourage friends to push their own limits, to experiment, to ask for more for themselves, to believe that what they dream just might be possible, to get paid for what they know and do well and like doing.

    I think if more women could experience the economy, the market place in this way — as small business owners or independent actors in some way — that we women would make a huge difference for ourselves, those we love, possibly our wider communities. I know that among radical feminists there’s a tremendous distrust of capitalism, of the way money structures relationships of inequality, etc. I don’t have answers to all of that. I just know that shunning money, power, the system etc. seems to lead not to that much freedom. Rather, in my own case, it was leading me down the path toward victimization, powerlessness, and perhaps resentment.

    I think that we women can do better by jumping into the economy as shapers of things rather than avoiding it and being the pushed-around employees who feel little responsibility for our work or for our actions as economic actors because we’re “just making a living, getting by,” etc. Women, seize the reigns of economic power as you see them. And in taking that power over your own lives there will come a great deal of responsibility. But that responsibility feels good.

    And to Allecto, not to single you out, and NOT to tell you there’s some easy answer, but because what you wrote about your work environment spoke to many memories of my own, I would suggest you think about the lack of power you feel in your current job as a child care worker. How might you change that? Is there a way you can work with children, whom you clearly like, such that you are empowered, in control of your income and destiny, and structuring an environment for the children that you think makes sense? Can you, in other words, start your own child care place or some other child-related business that offers you and the children a much better product? I am rooting for you.

    Posted by twitch | December 10, 2007, 7:50 pm
  38. Thanks Twitch for telling your economic story. I really love small businesses and the people who run them. I’ve coached women for decades on how to increase income, and get beyond the powerlessness most people feel in the work place.

    I also encourage women to really take seriously their partnerships with other women, to learn how to work out domestic disputes, and to keep inspired and motivated to create a world that works for you. Two women living and working together will be a big help. Living on your own is not a good idea economically. Lesbian feminism and its power is about just two lesbians dreaming big and working hard.

    Sometimes, I think as radical feminists, we can often get caught up in a kind of gloomy world view. We see the attrocities against women in the world, or we assume that all businesses are bad, and this gets us in a frame of reference that can make us not see possibility.

    Since being a lesbian is the ultimate in terms of a “start up” industry; born into a weird hetero world, no resources, no movies, no mirrors to reflect my life back to me… that was the downside. The upside of course is that I was free of all the things a lot of hetero women get stuck in — the family relationships, the boring social obligations, the forced performance of femininity to the point where the femme turns ninny! You do not have to do anything you dislike at all if you’re a lesbian. You are free in the world! You owe nothing to a straight world that doesn’t care one thing about you, you don’t have to sit and listen to straight people talk about “family” “kids” and all that nonsense. Believe me, heterosexual women lead deplorable lives worldwide, and I’m thankful not to have been a part of that!

    I saw lesbian feminism as the key to situating myself differently in the world, and it also meant I was free to be more creative with my life. So I started a company when I returned to the U.S., I got very good business training by simply leaving the U.S. for the booming prosperity of Japan, and I had advanced access to technology that was ahead of America at that time.

    There were all these other women I went to school with, and we were all the same, the only difference is that I made friends with all the foreign students on campus, and those friendships opened the world to me. We all lived in the same dorm, we all had the same chances in life, but I saw something special in the foreign students. For one thing, they were not biased against my very lesbian self. They had no American prejudices to act on, and they only responded to me as a welcoming American.

    This proved to me, that non-American women would be less fearful of a woman who was a total lesbian looking woman, and also there were many cultures were women really valued other women more and were not competitive in that annoying way that young American heterosexual women often are.

    Women who came to America to study, were simply more motivated and smarter than the stay at home American types. I noticed this and learned from it.

    I really believe that starting businesses, trying new things economically, and just connecting and supporting women really helps. If you look at one way wealth is created in the U.S., it is made out of the creation of a business — you can work for someone else, or you can hire many people to work for you. You can eliminate the things in your life to free up time for the persuits that are much more fun.

    I think it is often hard for women to delegate, and get out of doing things they have advanced beyond. We think we always have to be stuck in a 9-5 rut, or we think we have to clean our house, or hand write holiday cards, or we feel obligated to waste our time on events we don’t like with people we also don’t like very much.

    Women spend a lot of time being in uncomfortable situations and putting up with things silently. Being in business and helping people do things better, also frees you to make more choices.

    You don’t have to follow the herds down the road, you can travel by a different route.

    I have never really understood the radical feminist obsession with capitalism. I look at all world systems, and what system might work best for me. I look at what is highly compensated in capitalism and what is not. I look at jobs from only one perspective — the purpose of work is to earn money. That’s all a job or a career does that is different from all the other types of work you can do. So you have to maximize what those hours will pay you. Going from $16,000 to six figures is a great achievement. The first step is to get to that six figures for women. There are many books out there than can explain how important this first step is.

    I was just more adament, because I hated having to deal with the homophobia that is far more in your face when you’re in low income locations. People with more money definitely treated me better, and since I have seen at close quarters every social class in America, I can see the difference.

    Poverty masks a lot of other things too — it causes people to be very jealous and resentful of the people who want to move out of poverty, for example.

    A friend of mine once commented on how “cheap’ wealthy people were for driving farther down the street rather than pay the “valet” parking fee. I hate this aspect of L.A., and also drive down the street as well. ‘That’s why the rich are rich, they pay attention to these details,” I said.

    So my advice to young women, is to do everything in your power to build up your savings. Learn about investments at age 17-23. Avoid buying the things people in your age group waste money on. New cars for one. If you live in a city with good mass transit, you can avoid all cars for many years, and use the money to build up this investment account.

    Keep studying and working cleverly. Find ambitious people and hang out with them, ask for help, get mentors and supporters. Avoid dream killers and negative people who don’t support your drive to economic betterment.

    I have strict rules — I never judge people on their economic health, but I will not tolerate people who undermine my ambition for myself. If you’re poor, that’s your business, if you get resentful of me for not wanting to be in that position, then I’ll have a problem. The lobster pot is big, and there are plenty of people out there, feminists included, who want to drag down the lobsters who want to climb out of the boiling pot.

    It’s part of the radical feminist world, and I have never liked it.
    I figure, at least on the Internet I can speak up about this, and clue women in on what is going on out there.

    I do know that sisterhood works, but not when it drags people down or keeps the lid on ambition.

    The whole point of feminism was to free women, and economic self-sufficiency is a basic freedom. We’ll never know the reason for wealth and poverty in America. But I know that I will never subscribe to any ideas that limit my income or hold me back in this way. I just won’t go along with that program at all.

    I’m pretty tough and stubborn on this point, and it will have many detractors. There is real hatred of capitalism among those who don’t like capital. But all you have to do is read the dental medical stories on another of Heart’s threads, and you’ll see why poverty is a great curse of women. Women now have access to more wealth in their own right than probably at any time in world history in the U.S.

    I work with women every day, and help them strategize, so that they can do the same thing better. I’m amazed that there aren’t more stories of economic triumph on here for women to share and be inspired by.

    We’ll always have attrocities, we’ll always have murders — you’ll see that all the time even on mainstream T.V. But the stories of triumph — the triumph of radical feminists really doing great things in the world, now that’s a story that can really be told.

    Twitch, you have guts to sing your own praises, and you have guts for really going for it. You have done something to be proud of, and your story can help other women do the same.

    Not being a part of the 60s generation, and coming up in the middle of the two biggest recessions just in time for my high school and college graduations, I was a little bit more mindful of how challenging work would be. I took a look at lesbian life back then, and I wanted more than the run down and low end of things that lesbians often got stuck with.

    I thought the intelligence of women could be found in universities and not in lesbian bars, I supported every effort for women to make herstory their own, and business their own. It’s been a lifetime project, and I’ve really loved the challenge.

    I’m the same person, but by looking at math differently, it made all the difference in the world!

    Posted by Satsuma | December 10, 2007, 10:20 pm
  39. More spam coming at you!

    Twitch – A great post!! I love it I love it I love it!!!!

    Posted by Satsuma | December 10, 2007, 10:21 pm
  40. Well– I’m going to blog about this, I guess, at some point.

    I started my own publication in 1989. I built it into one which paid me over six figures annually. I started it on my kitchen table with 17 subscribers, a Selectric typewriter, rub-on “graphics” and cheap copy paper. I started with zero money, no loans, not even micro. Within five years I was speaking regularly across the country to up to 5,000 people at a time and had 50,000 readers. I supported my family, bought five acres, moved to the country, and so on.

    But, I didn’t like it all that much, the money part of it, I mean. (I LOVED the writing and publishing part! And liked speaking well enough.) Not the apparent “security” of it, really, at all. The fact that I had managed to accomplish creating this type of business and making it successful didn’t really move me one way or the other, though I was glad I’d done it. Of course, for me it wasn’t as much money as it would be for you, Twitch and Satsuma, given that when I was earning it, I had seven, eight, nine kids and was supporting my whole family by myself. I also won an Anti-Trust lawsuit in 1998, and with it, a nice amount of cash in a lump sum.

    I didn’t really enjoy the money part of that, either. LOVED kicking Religious Right butt though!

    I understand planning, strategizing, saving, analyzing, and etc. I understand that women feel good when they create and enjoy wealth.

    But I don’t.


    Maybe my reasons for not enjoying it or caring about it are related to some weakness or failing in myself. Maybe this has to do with deep issues of internalized misogyny and feelings of being undeserving and urgest to self-sabotage and all the pop-psychology reasons people use to explain women’s love/hate affair with money/wealth/affluence.

    I enjoyed certain things about creating a successful business and earning enough money to not have to worry about it and to take care of my family, of course. It gave me a certain self-confidence, sure, knowing I was able to provide for myself and 11-12 people, plus animals.

    But I never really deluded myself — and I think it is a delusion — that my success was strictly the result of how brilliant or hardworking or savvy or highly educated I was or am. I think it was a lot more complicated than that. I think earning a lot of money, rising up through whatever ranks, is always very complicated, and only in part does it have to do with the hard work, good character, intelligence, creativity of the person who earns or rises up (if it has anything to do with any of the above at all! I know a lot of lazy-ass, dumb-ass, creative-as-a-rock people who are well off and who, for that matter, are “self-made,” most of them men. They do not impress me!)

    There were a whole lot of things about having money that I actively *disliked* — very much, in fact.

    We’ve talked before about what we do and don’t enjoy, though. I enjoyed having 11 kids, too, pregnancies, home births, the whole thing. That makes me different from many women.

    I’ve always looked forward to getting old — since I was little! — and have never even been remotely tempted to lie about my age. If anything, I am tempted to say I am older than I am. So that makes me different from some women, I guess.

    I’ll write about money.

    I see what you are saying there, Satsuma and Twitch. And a lot of it I appreciate, think has value, and I can relate to what you are saying and think it might benefit women, at least some women.

    But my perspective is way different, I think.


    Posted by womensspace | December 10, 2007, 11:38 pm
  41. I look forward to your blog post on the subject, Heart. I would love for money to be a thing of the past and the economy to operate on a gift basis. Right now I am worried about my future due to lack of money. I would like to find out about ways to survive (and thrive) without it, but I grew up in a city and there is much I don’t know about that. So for the time being, you can send me some of the unwanted stuff if you want to! Only kidding, 🙂

    Posted by Branjor | December 11, 2007, 1:03 am
  42. Ha ha! If only I had some unwanted stuff to send to you!

    Of course I’m not saying I don’t like money and don’t want it. I need it just like everybody else and often I struggle to make ends meet trying to hold on to my land, keep my family and animals warm, clothed, fed, cared for, etc. There are lots of repairs I’d like to make. There are a lot of things we do without. I am not saying I don’t care about the repairs, the things, etc. It’s been a long time since I earned a six figure income or anywhere near it (!). The money from my lawsuit went to buy my farm and to pay all of my advertisers/columnists back what I still owed them because I got shut down, and to fulfill remaining magazine subscriptions and try to get the magazine going again (which I was not able to do successfully).

    I do know how to get by without much money at all, and have done that for long stretches with lots of kids. What I don’t know how to get by without is community.

    I love to do work I love, and writing and publishing are work I love. But there are many things about running a “successful” business in the U.S. that I don’t like. And I don’t like what people usually have to do to become successful or to remain successful. I don’t like the barriers having money puts between me and other people (which Satsuma, I think, was talking about at least to some degree.) Well, there’s a lot to talk about.

    I like the idea of moving in the direction of gifting more: sharing stuff around, Freecycle, giving to people who need it, living in community however we can make it happen, and having our security in our friends, loved ones, and the community we make together. I don’t know if our security can really be in both money/investments/retirement plans *and* community. In this society, I don’t think it can. I think the one gets in the way of the other.

    Well, I’ll write about it. It’s a huge subject. Economics is really so much about what we trust, where we put our faith. It’s about what our personal values are. Like we used to say in my old world, and I think it’s true, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


    Posted by womensspace | December 11, 2007, 2:06 am
  43. Hey twitch,

    The short answer is that I’m lazy. And all of that would take work. I also hate having responsibility. I never want a job that has responsibilities. Running a business would take too much of my time. And time is infinitely more valuable to me than money ever will be.

    The job I have at the moment is in a really lovely, caring, community-based (ie. non-profit) centre, so I’m happy now, and I don’t want to change that.

    As for controlling my income/destiny well I probably have more money than the majority of women in the world. I am able to have clean water to drink and uncontaminated food to eat. I am able to rent the roof over my head. I have clothes to wear and a bed to sleep in. I’m even killing Mother Earth right now, running this lap top. A laptop that probably caused the blindness of a teenage girl working in an economic processing zone in a ‘developing’ country. So really my income is just fine. More than fine.

    And my destiny is to be for women. I have the time to write, read, cry and be personally and politically active. So my destiny is being taken care of.

    I love the job I’m in now. I am always going to be uncomfortable about money regardless of my working conditions. I prefer doing volunteer work. I feel I get far more out of volunteering and activism than I do from ‘regular’ employment.

    I will continue to believe absolutely that materialism is anti-feminist. And that material wealth means nothing. I believe that quality of life cannot be measured by money and that money can not necessarily purchase quality of life.

    Posted by allecto | December 11, 2007, 11:53 am
  44. Dear Allecto,

    First of all — great news that you like your present employ.

    I like your brutal honesty — about what matters to you, what you are willing to do or not do, what you need to be happy. I think being so clear with yourself is a real strength. I think if more people knew what mattered to them, they would be a lot more comfortable with the choices they make — how much to work, what to work at, how much they needed materially to be content, instead of taking their cues constantly from the Jones’s. A corollary to that would be that they wouldn’t need to pressure others to live as they do.

    Hey, there’s a lot of pressure out there, all around, to consume, to work like a dog, to pursue ever greater amounts of wealth, to never feel secure. And paradoxically, among radical feminists there is an opposite pressure — to live close to the bone. Somehow, each of us has to navigate that very pressured social environment. It is a triumph to come to one’s own terms with it, not just run like a rat on the wheel or complain about becoming so much capitalist roadkill. You seem to have that clear vision.

    I hope that with it you will remain content with your choices and willing to let yourself do things differently, if different things come to matter in new degrees to you. The way you describe yourself and feeelings about money/time is EXACTLY the way I felt up until about age 35. Then something shifted, and I stopped feeling as insoucient. I don’t think that’s a better or worse way of living, but when I addressed some of those developing desires and needs, I felt competent again, not as vulnerable to misfortune.

    I was wondering if you could explain your statement, “I will continue to believe absolutely that materialism is anti-feminist”? Because that is something I don’t understand, and I bet there are other readers, too, who want to understand that view of the world. If you’re interested, would you mind elaborating on that?

    I see often how radical feminists will disparage working for pay and money in general and contrast those things to love and community. I see no such dichotomy. I think one can be a great friend, neighbor, family member, local activist, volunteer, and business leader, etc. and earn enough to remain reasonably self-sufficient economically for all of one’s adult life. Providing work and the means for others to earn a living or gain a broader education is a great contribution to that same community, however broadly one defines that community.

    And if I had to choose in a dichotomized world between friendship and wealth, I would choose the former hands down as both a more fulfilling and a more reliable bedrock to count on. But I wouldn’t choose an abstraction like “community” over taking care of myself first, because I’ve see over and over how little that word means when push comes to shove and individuals have to choose between helping a community member and helping themselves.

    Best wishes,

    Posted by twitch | December 11, 2007, 5:24 pm
  45. I’d really like to read a very good quality radical feminist blog on money.

    I think radical lesbian feminism actually avoids this subject, or rejects the power of money, and yet, money is the roadblock to women’s progress worldwide.

    If lesbians had billions, believe me, the world wouldn’t mess with us. We’d control hospitals and banks and auto dealerships, and we’d own fine restaurants where we wouldn’t have to listen to children crying or ruining the evening! I have to complain to restaurant managers every so often because the heterosexual couples seem to think their children have the right to scream and cry in a place people go for tranquility! That’s another book!!

    We’d have territory and park land, and maybe a private jet or two just for the hell of it. Museums would exault our historic contributions, buildings would have our paintings in the lobby.

    Imagine the celebration of lesbian partners carved onto the buildings themselves.

    It would be a world we’d own and control in our own right. It’s something straight people don’t even pay attention to–
    the bowing down to heterosexuality, the naming of trusts after husbands and wives, the worship of children at the expense of adult conversation and adult spaces, the assumption that T.V. has to have a “prime time” “family” time period! And on and on it goes.

    So gradually and steadily, the lesbian presence is being felt in the world of business. Our outsider status gives us incredible creativity and access to things that are unknown to the mainstream world. We move between social classes and cultures with ease, we see market opportunities that no one knows exist, we create realities that are taken for granted in feminism today.

    I want my lesbian feminist tribe to be remembered for all this work, and I certainly don’t want some cheap plastic plaque honoring it! On the non-lesbian front, I don’t want Judy Chicago to lose her The Dinner Party, because women can’t afford to find a good home for this masterpiece.

    I don’t want women ever to have to have a damn bake sale again! Or a damn pot luck either! So blah ;_(

    Must be in a kick butt mood today — hetero holiday excess everywhere pushes me over the cliff!!!

    Posted by Satsuma | December 15, 2007, 11:04 pm
  46. Money. Where to even start with this topic…!

    Allecto, I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying. I, too, have worked with children for my entire adult life. Mainly as a childcare provider, both in centers and private homes, but in other ways, too. At this point I’ve decided not to even consider childcare center jobs anymore, mainly because of the staff:child ratio. There are never enough adults for all the children, and it’s thus too stressful and not fair to anyone. So, I’m back to in-home childcare, and I much prefer it, in part because I wrote my own work agreement (i.e. all my policies) and won’t start a new position until the parents sign it. I like being able to set my own hours and wages and specify which (holi)days I will and will not work.

    For years, I used to feel guilty and weird for accepting money to care for/be in relationship with children, especially when I truly enjoyed it so much I’d do it for free. I only feel that way about a select few families/children, though! Most of the time I do enjoy my work but wouldn’t do it for free, and sometimes I am ONLY doing the work for the money – and that’s when I end up quitting, because it’s not worth my time or energy.
    Getting paid to be with children doesn’t bother me so much anymore. Sometimes a child will ask me why her parents pay me, and my standard answer is, varied a bit depending on the age of the child asking, “If your parents DIDN’T pay me, I would have to get a job somewhere else to earn enough money to pay for things like rent, and gas, and food. And if I had a job somewhere else, I wouldn’t have all this time to spend with YOU. And here with you is where I want to be spending my time, so your parents pay me.”

    And I, too, value time more than money. I work as much as is necessary to pay my bills and for what I define as my needs, and no more. I love having lots of free time for volunteer work, activism, travel, fun, rest, reading, writing, art, family, friends, etc.
    And overall, I’m happy with the way in which I manage my money. I scrimp in some areas in order to spend more in others. i.e. I purchase almost all of my clothes, books, DVDs, etc. used, and none of my furniture matches because everything was a gift/free, and I rarely go out to eat or to the movies and don’t have cable TV and I stay home when it snows because I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on snow tires, BUT, I choose to eat mostly organic food, participate in circus classes regularly, see my favorite singer whenever she’s in a 200 mile radius, and sponsor a girl in the Middle East.
    I’m happy with the way I live. Sure, I’d like a little more money, but I don’t want it enough to do what it takes to get it. And I’d never want to be very wealthy, because the vast majority of wealthy people I’ve known aren’t people I enjoy spending my time with, aren’t people whose values I share. I’ve never met a wealthy person who was truly happy with all that they had – there’s never a feeling of “enough.” One always wants more and more and more.
    And quite often, wealthy lifestyles negatively impact the environment. For example, Satsuma, your suggestion of having a private jet or two “for the hell of it.” Very harmful to the Earth. If I had billions, I wouldn’t be putting it towards jets, fine dining, cars, museums, etc. – I’d use it to help the millions of women and children worldwide who live without running water, food, shelter, and other basics.

    Branjor, I want that gift economy, too. I don’t know exactly what it would look like or how we’d get there, but I keep thinking about Fest.
    Everything, EVERYTHING, is so different at Fest. One of the big things I love about Fest is the way in which womyn help one another, purely out of love and care. An excerpt from my journal, from one day at Fest when I was in a lot of emotional pain/needed a lot of help:
    “It’s the only place in the world where I could be totally safe, supported, and loved, as I cried intermittently for a good 9 hours. I sobbed outright, loudly, even while walking through the Land, and ‘strangers’ came up and hugged me and counseled me. I had never needed my sisters more, and I so gratefully soaked up all they had to offer. For once, I didn’t feel guilty for being ‘too needy,’ or worry that i was inconveniencing someone by asking for help, or feel bad for taking so much without giving in return. I was able to whole-heartedly take in all the amazing gifts – of time, touch, energy, and words – that these womyn gave me. It really is a completely different culture at Fest. Unlike in the outside world, people don’t help each other in order to be rewarded or to be helped equally in return, people help each other purely out of love. It’s not ‘scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,’ it’s ‘Scratch whosever back needs scratching in the moment, and when yours needs to be scratched, someone will scratch it.’ Earlier in the week, I did lots to help other womyn – I helped a womyn find her tent in the dark, shared my soap, shared my food, refilled strangers’ water bottles, sat and held a womyn’s hand in sacred singing circle when she was all alone, looked things up in my program for womyn who needed info, gave my glowsticks to some kids, and other things I’ve since forgotten because they were too natural and automatic to be notable. That’s the way it works – you see a womyn in need and help her, or help her find help if you can’t help her yourself. And you trust, KNOW, that when you’re the one in need of help, other womyn will be there for you. There’s no guilt or resentment involved, and it’s beautiful.”

    What I also love about Fest is the way workshifts work. When I arrived for my 4-hr workshift in the kitchen, the womyn in charge gathered us in a circle to talk about how it was going to work. She asked us what the number one most important thing was while working in the kitchen, and someone suggested “safety,” but her answer was “LOVE.” Love is #1. And everything else naturally falls into place when love is foregrounded. (i.e. Is it possible to NOT care about safety, with love guiding you? No. Being loving means keeping yourself and the people around you safe.) She also told us that anytime we needed to do anything to take care of ourselves – go to the bathroom, rest, drink water, whatever – that we should go do it, and take as long as we needed to. It was a wonderful way to do things… allowing each of us to self-regulate. To my knowledge, no one took advantage of this by up and leaving their workshift an hour early or stopping work to go goof off… we didn’t feel the NEED to. We took care of our personal needs in whichever ways were necessary, then returned to doing the work that was so vital and relevant to us all – the work that literally fed and nourished ourselves and our sisters.
    Work is good, when it’s MEANINGFUL like that.
    None of us doing workshifts in the kitchen got paid to do so, but we did it because it enabled us to EAT. Womyn didn’t get paid to do security workshifts, but they did it because it meant we were all safe. Etc., etc., with all the various kinds of workshifts.
    I wish the whole world was like this – everyone doing meaningful work that directly impacts our health, happiness, safety, nourishment, etc. It’s so screwed up that work in our current society is mainly a draining, unpleasant method of getting MONEY, which everyone attempts to use to BUY health, happiness, safety, nourishment, etc…e.g. working so hard/long that one gets sick, then spending all the money earned by working to restore one’s health, instead of just being healthy all along by living a pleasurable, restful life. Or working way too many hours at a horribly boring job, then using that money to “buy” fun on the weekends, instead of just having fun by not working so much.
    But I have no idea how such a system (gift economy, meaningful/logical work) could be implemented in a society, because one person can’t do away with money unless EVERYONE does, you know?

    Oh, it’s such a huge topic, one I haven’t even officially studied at all… I’m sure there are numerous books I could/should read…

    Posted by Eeni B. Bella | December 17, 2007, 4:56 am
  47. Money could be a topic all its own, since I find a lot of what radical feminists have to say about it truly bizaar.

    It’s almost a kind of massive denial in the radical world, that strikes me as dangerous for women.

    There are all kinds of ways of looking at work, and all kinds of ways to transform jobs. I like to do the math first, then move backward from that.

    But this way of looking at work is decidedly a minority within a minority opinion.

    It is telling that Jane Rule wrote about everything but somehow avoided the nitty gritty of how she and her partner navigated the financial world.

    Posted by Satsuma | December 17, 2007, 9:53 pm

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The Farm at Huge Creek, Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, The Feminist Hullaballoo