Friday, June 23, 2006

Nice Girls/Mean Girls/What is this all about, really?

Bitch | Lab picked up this intrablog conversation that we'd been starting to have. I'm reposting my answer here, lightly edited for context, because I've been meaning to address this for a while:

As long as we’re examining hidden influences of institutionalized sexism (i have declared a personal moratorium on the word “patriarchy”)? Stuff that I think came up in the BJ Wars (what did you do in the War, mommy?) in spades: the conformist thing. That is, men are vulnerable to it, too, but with a lot of women (obviously not all, and there are other subcultural influences that can counter, but) in this culture, there is this thing that is taught where we must please the other, be nice, be a “good girl,” get along. Don’t get angry; don’t confront; don’t get the other person mad at you.

The patriarchy-blamers concentrate on the ways in which women are taught (overtly or covertly) to please a Man/Men, and that’s certainly valid; it’s there, no doubt. But it isn’t the whole story.

It’s sort of related to what we [conversation between B|L and me] were talking about viz whether it was as fun to flame women as it is men, on the whole; the observation that often, men tend to be able to get into heated debates and then come right out of it as pals, go get a beer; whereas with women, more often, it seems to be more fraught, just disagreement, any disagreement seems more fraught. I think it’s because of that early conditioning. And it’s also why when we do get into fights, it can seem uglier, more charged. Because there’s all this backed-up stuff–I mean, aggression in general, competitiveness.

That’s it, isn’t it. This is another area where the radfem thing has a blind spot. Because besides buying into a lot of the good old-fashioned sex-negative crap, it also buys to a certain degree into the notion that women are “nicer,” I think; hey, we’re not the rapists, we’re not the serial murderers, we’re not the ones who start wars, blahblah. There seems to be a lot of investment in this (yes, it’s true, but why is it true is the question; with radfem ideology there often does seem to be this unacknowledged essentialism, as B|L and others have noted).

So, a posit, if you will: it’s okay to get angry, even aggressive, but only at the approved targets. Which, by the way, as a technique for authoritarian movements, works real well: it’s the two-minute-hate thing. “Let’s you and me get angry at Him/Them.” Because it's a controlled, "safe" outlet for a fuck of a lot of tamped-down, highly charged stuff that's been festering for a while.

Ah, but disagreement in the ranks? Confrontation with an ally? Danger, danger Will Robinson: we might die.

Which contributes to the “you’re either fer us or agin’ us,” imo.

And that part isn’t limited to this kind of radfems, I note. The creepy sexual shaming, that was new for me among so-called feminists and lesbians (tell me, how was this any different from a clique of high school girls standing and giggling and pointing at that slutty girl who wears the torn fishnets and micro minis and you know what they SAY about her, psst psst giggle psst).

But, like, in the Dyke Drama group, I noticed: okay, we’re not bending over backwards to conform to the image of Cosmo and please a Man; but we *do*, many of us, seem to be bending over backwards to please and fit in in other ways. It was a leftie thing as well as a woman thing, I think, but: Either way, the message remains the same: don’t be selfish. Don’t put yourself first.

So instead of dropping everything to rush home and make dinner for the hubby and kids, it’s dropping everything to go help another collective member in an outer borough paint her apartment (when you don’t even know her that well); or joining endless task forces; or volunteering for this and that and the other until you drop. Smile, weakly: “Oh, no, that’s okay. I don’t mind.”

The word “no” comes in handy in a lot of situations, y’know; it’s too bad that (many of) the radfems only seem to be interested in applying it to dirty men with their icky sexual demands.

And then, too, as B|L and Arwen and others noted: some of us are more invested in what other women/feminists think because we care more about what other women/feminists think. Screw the men; it’s not about the men; it never was about the men. What about us? Damn, this sucks.

Finally, I will posit that for many of us (obviously not all), in fact the person who’s had the most influence on us and with whom we’ve had the most complicated emotional relationship, the most investment, the most…is not some faceless Patriarch or even the husband/boyfriend, but rather dear ol’ Mom.

115 comments:

witchy-woo said...

There's a lot I can relate to in this post, truly, but I don't like the radfem bashing. It feels like radfem bashing is like 'sport' and that sucks. It feels nasty.

Radfems are not 'sex-negative' - ok? Nor is there a radfem belief that women are intrinsically 'nicer'. It's a fact; women are not the majority of rapists, serial killers or war starters.

As a rad fem I do try to accommodate the pov's of other women but I don't view that as being 'nice'. I see that as trying to understand where other women are on the oppression line.

And 'dear ol' Mom'? You think she's passing on the message from her heart or for the sake of the survival of her children? Patriarchy scapegoats women - makes us responsible for all human harm. Who, exactly, was Eve, again?

belledame222 said...

>And 'dear ol' Mom'? You think she's passing on the message from her heart or for the sake of the survival of her children? Patriarchy scapegoats women - makes us responsible for all human harm. >

What does this mean to you, exactly?

I mean, I think maybe we're coming from very different frameworks here. I think people are people. And yes, social conditioning exists, but...it's complicated.

Or, well, look: when you say "patriarchy." What does that mean to you, exactly? Yes, I know what some of the major radfem definitions are, but I'm curious to hear it in your words.

Anonymous said...

"Radfems are not 'sex-negative' - ok? Nor is there a radfem belief that women are intrinsically 'nicer'. It's a fact; women are not the majority of rapists, serial killers or war starters."

True though that last statement may be, I call that an incomplete argument of women's inherent "niceness" as compared to men. Rape and serial murder are hardly the only ways one can exhibit cruelty, and most men still opt neither to rape nor to kill for sport. (And as for the "war-starting", I do remain unconvinced that war would cease if only women served as heads of state.)

witchy-woo said...

Oh, it's complicated. I agree. But in a kind of way it's really very simple too.

For me, right?

I couldn't give a flying fuck how much a woman/man weighs as long as she/he's happy. There is no 'acceptable standard'.

Likewise body hair, sexuality, demeanor, gait, underwear/lack of, sexual history, termination history, make up preferences, etc. etc.

As a radfem I don't want to put any woman in a box and I believe that's what patriarchy does to women and men. It puts us into boxes - or kind of forces us to put ourselves into boxes that have been pre-designed - in the case of women it's 'for the use of'.

I think that some of us, in some ways, need to conform to the boxes in order to stay alive. And, for some of us, our mothers have been/are the one's who foster that notion - through the very real fear of our physical harm or social ostracisation.

I agree - human beings are social beings. I just don't understand why having innie rather than outie genitalia makes us 'less than' and I absolutely refuse to compete on those grounds.

Patriarchy favours those with 'outie' genitalia. It makes men's wants and needs more important than women's lives.

I can't accept that.

witchy-woo said...

Much as I hate responding to 'anonymous'....

I wasn't comparing gender 'inherent niceness'. FFS who do you think I am? Just bog off with your strawfeminist argument would you please? I'm trying to have an intelligent conversation here.

belledame222 said...

I believe anon might have been riffing off my own use of the word "niceness." At any rate I'd rather assume anon is also trying to have a conversation in good faith. (I would however also rather that people choose a name, even a temporary one; it makes things simpler. just click "Other" when signing in).

Right, w-w: well, there's nothing in what you've said I disagree with. Thing is--well, a couple of things. "Sexism" is another term and one I find more useful for what you're describing there. "Patriarchy" to me has a more specific meaning (rule of the fathers; and there are certain values that tend to go with it, yes; and yes, I have issues with it). In radfem theory it means something more all-encompassing, I think. anyway I'm not sure I'm down with the notion that men as a class oppress women as a class, or that this is the primary or worst oppression. Obviously it's a real oppression, and it's one that matters to me, on account of I'm a woman. But I use other frameworks as well.

More to the point, I think:

>And 'dear ol' Mom'? You think she's passing on the message from her heart or for the sake of the survival of her children? Patriarchy scapegoats women - makes us responsible for all human harm.

It's true that women have been and still are often scapegoated. That doesn't mean that it's necessary to go to the opposite extreme, though.

What I'm saying with this: I just don't always want to talk about men. I think there's plenty to talk about wrt the ways women interact with women.

I mean, yes, I could certainly chalk up some of my own (for example) mother's tendencies toward emotional abuse to her frustrations at being limited in her career by institutionalized sexism, not to mention her own father--but I just don't think that gets very far, ultimately. I mean, I could trace back my grandfather's failings to *his* father, and to any number of other things as well; but at a certain point: what of it?

I mean, what does it mean, really, to "blame the patriarchy?" At what point do women have responsibility and agency of our very own?

belledame222 said...

more briefly: the relationship I have/had with my mother is profound and complex and has been volatile, as is the one she has with *her* mother; and I think there are plenty of things to talk about there that focuses on those, from a feminist perspective, without particularly talking about men. Along with female friendships, lesbian relationships, the nature of power and intimacy in all kinds of relationships between women...

witchy-woo said...

I hear you belledame.

"...from a feminist perspective, without particularly talking about men. Along with female friendships, lesbian relationships, the nature of power and intimacy in all kinds of relationships between women..."

I can't help but think that all relationships between women are made within a patriarchl framework - i.e. women hating/judging/using other women... unless consciously made from a feminist perspective.

I truly believe patriarchy is toxic for women because it destroys our healthy self identification.

belledame222 said...

I understand that.

My own slant is very much tied up with my personal experience of sexual shaming as toxic. I do see that tradition of sex-negativity and homophobia as well as misogyny (they all go together imo) as "patriarchal" in at least the sense of the culture I'm most familiar with, which is heavily influenced by monotheism and especially Christianity.

jt said...

I was "anonymous" - I don't have a blogger account, you see. To witchy-woo:

"I wasn't comparing gender 'inherent niceness'. FFS who do you think I am?"

Going back to your post:

"Nor is there a radfem belief that women are intrinsically 'nicer'. It's a fact; women are not the majority of rapists, serial killers or war starters."

It looks pretty clear that you appeared to be saying that "it's a fact", not just a belief, that "women are intrinsically 'nicer'". I somehow missed that you were riffing on belledame's post, and apparently misunderstood.

cicely said...

anyway I'm not sure I'm down with the notion that men as a class oppress women as a class, or that this is the primary or worst oppression. Obviously it's a real oppression, and it's one that matters to me, on account of I'm a woman. But I use other frameworks as well.

I feel the same reservations about women as a class although I'm obviously acutely aware of what you're calling institutionalised sexism. If we begin at the place where we're all feminists, we all see what goes on and want to improve the status of women by challenging the priviledged place of men, the problems between feminists appear to begin at exactly the point where 'women as class' comes in. So if one feminist is into d/s relating, pornography, supports de-criminalisation of prostitution - whatever, another who strictly adhere's to a 'women as class' perspective, and is politically opposed to all or any of these things calls on a notion of collective feminist responsibilty to challenge the first feminist's feminist credentials. What we hear is 'what you are doing or what you support is dangerous to *all* women.' The first feminist might reply - 'well, what you advocate is oppressive to a lot of individual women. What's feminist about that?'

Radical feminists are attempting to create a class consciousness and a collective response to sexism so the need to 'pull women into line', so to speak, is greater for them, it seems to me. If the theories and arguements aren't persuasive enough for enough women to get on board, maybe the frustration leads to the shaming, the attacking of credentials etc. It's 'why can't you see? Why can't you agree? You must be a dupe of the patriarchy. It's the only possible explanation for your blindness. And your blindness is keeping us all down.' And so on, round and round. And, as we know, women often aren't in the least bit 'nice' in the way they go about these exchanges.


I can't help but think that all relationships between women are made within a patriarchl framework - i.e. women hating/judging/using other women... unless consciously made from a feminist perspective.

Yes, but *which* feminist perspective? Like belledame, I have been on the receiving end of radfem/LF shaming around my sexuality, and it was precisely *because* of my commitment to feminism - as well as my need for lesbian community - that I was as vulnerable to it as I was. It would have been necessary to change myself in ways not, imo, particularly useful to my own feminist goals, to avoid these conflicts, and further to join in 're-directing' other lesbians from their own perfectly harmless understandings of themselves. I never seriously considered step one, let alone step two, although I did once seek counselling with a lesbian sex therapist. She was confused about what I wanted from her since after describing my sexuality, I was saying that I didn't want to change myself, or really believe I could even if I'd wanted to. The kind of therapist I should have been seeing was one who would help me deal with the rejection I felt from the lesbian-feminist community because of the woman and the lesbian I was (am). I'm telling this story partly because I often hear RF's say 'but we're not actually telling women what to do and not do - we all make our deals with the patriarchal devil etc, etc.' The fact is that women - and particularly lesbians, I think - have been and are actually hurt by it in very real ways, and I'm not about to let that be overlooked, although I have also finally reached the point of knowing and feeling that I don't and in fact have never had a personal *or* political problem. It was ultimatley a social problem born out of particular feminist politics. I was never moved to seek therapy about any aspect of my lesbianism or sexuality as a result of general homophobia (or negative reactions to it from family - because there were none). I have discovered I was far from alone in facing this issue of re-conciling my sexuality with the dominant feminist politic of the time, although those of us feeling it did most often experience it in isolation from each other.

I think we have truly reached an impasse within feminism - or at least I have! I can honestly say that there are RF positions I now reject as quickly as I do RR ones after 30+ years of processing via reading/experience and debate. i.e. I've arrived somewhere, and it feels remarkably like the place I first started pre-RF/LF's impact around my sexuality. i.e. What I want and do harms neither me nor you, so butt out! Feminism for me is speciically about increasing the safety, the freedom, and the choices and opportunities for women around the world. Freedom from *and* freedom to - woman by woman from her own unique place. The rest is different politics and philosophy. (by which I mean socialism, social democracy, religiosity, secularism etc - all those other thingy's.)

Alon Levy said...

Radfems are not 'sex-negative' - ok?

"I posit that no woman likes blowjobs."

"Nor is there a radfem belief that women are intrinsically 'nicer'. It's a fact; women are not the majority of rapists, serial killers or war starters."

If you can't see why it's as sexist as claiming that rich whites are nicer than poor minorities, there's really no point in talking to you.

scarfalonius said...

Well, I thought that was a great post.

antiprincess said...

maybe not "nicer", but possibly more enlightened and possessed of a superior state of being. That's the sense I get - and it really gets under my skin.

Bitch | Lab said...

well, of course, reading _Feminism Meets Queer Theory_ today, hits home again the thing that always pissed me off.

It's not about freakin liking or not liking sex. It's about the notiongthat one can claim that certain kinds of sex are somehow tools of the patriarchy. Furthermore, the biggest disputes have been over, not hetsex, but sexual minorities and dissidents and that's where I get pretty irritated having seen my friends and loved ones treated like dirt.

Radfems _did_ (and a minority continue) to claim that BDSM, penetration sex, sex play with dildos, gay male sex deemed pathological (glory holes, anonymous sex, bath houses), assfucking in general. I could go on, but I have here an essay by Sara Hoagland relating a series of those arguments in support of _her_ argument for separatism.

So, you can jump on your man and ride 'em hard and put him away wet. You can screw all day every day and service one another with mutual head 'til the cows come homw on sunday. YAY! you like sex.

But if you run around claiming that certain forms of sex unproblematically reinscrite the patriarchy, then you're sex negative.


Like this kind of ridiculousness:

"Just as I based my own sense of power on making love to other wimmin, I perceived their willingness to let me make love to them as a "giving up" of power. When they yielded to me, surrendered themselves to me passionately, made themselves "vulnerable" to me, I became powerful. I was absorbed by the anticipatory thrills of the "chase," and my sexuality was dependent on the sexual charge I experienced when I made a new "conquest." By identifying my own sexuality with power, and making satisfaction dependent on controlling another Lesbian's body, I'd bound myself to the constant need to rekindle that "charge" over and over again. Because I saw sex as a way of empowering myself, I saw the wimmin I made love to as giving up their power to me, and it was never long before I had to find another "conquest." If I was "getting" power, then my lover of the moment must be "losing" power...."

Bitch | Lab said...

Patriarchy scapegoats women - makes us responsible for all human harm. Who, exactly, was Eve, again?

--
those are the kinds of statements that are rather irritating. They're blanket statements that don't get us terribly far. They annoy women of color who often find, for instance, they're in better jobs than the men in their lives.

And then there is the anthropomophizing language, where patriarchy is reified into this acting thing that can do this or that, when all that anyone is really talking about are social relationships.

Further, it leaves unaddressed _why_ patriarchy does these things. Or why patriarchy emerged in the first place.

And when pressed, that's when characterization of men come in which, when scrutinized, make it clear that women appear to be absent those motivations. Which hou biological essentialism sneaks. But mostly it is cultural essentialism, the claim that, because all women are oppressed, they have certain characteristics they share, etc. And, in turn, such bold claims simply aren't supported by empirical evidence.

mandos said...

I agree - human beings are social beings. I just don't understand why having innie rather than outie genitalia makes us 'less than' and I absolutely refuse to compete on those grounds.

My own hypothesis about this, as we have been discussing on VS's blog with a certain amount of regularity (because I, at least, think it's important), is, in a nutshell, that men at a visceral level feel "less than" women because "outie" genitalia is just less "profound" and necessary for survival and life than "innie" genitalia.

The attempt to make men feel "as important" as women eventually resulted (somehow) with women being "less than" men.

Violet Socks said...

I've just been over at antiprincesses' blog, where she has a post up about how radfems and sex-positives can get along. Normally I would never post on a thread like this, but under the circumstances I just have to ask: is this supposed to be dialogue?

I mean, you start with some false premises about radical feminism --I've been a radical feminist for 35 years and it's never been synonymous with thinking women are nicer or sex is icky. A radical feminist tries politely to set the record straight, and what happens? She's not believed (!), some more people come along with further distortions of radical feminism, and then somebody starts actually insulting the radical feminist. What the fuck?

belledame222 said...

"There's really no point talking to you" may not be terrifically helpful for dialogue; then again neither is "just bog off" and the leap to the conclusion that another poster is a troll. so, we learn and move on.

VS I hear that you think I'm mispresenting radfem. Possibly I made with the sweeping generalizations here, and was in error to do so. I expect it is frustrating to witness my perhaps shallow understanding of radfem based on other peoples' interpretations, some readings, and a lot of crap that's recently gone down on the Internets, wherein I have seen plenty of sentiments that describe all kinds of sexual acts as profoundly icky; and I have seen at least a few statements that were overtly to the effect that women are better. I know I've felt similarly frustrated at what I see as misrepresentations of "sex positive feminism," certainly.

That said: there are a lot of valid questions in the comments here as well, I think, and I'd like to continue discussing in that vein.

As per "nicer;" I conflated a bit, I think. I have never seen a radfem write in so many words that women are "nicer," obviously. As per essentialist differences--well, I've been following BL's thoughts on the subject (as she's written above, roughly: that once the posit is that the primary oppression is of men as a class over woman as a class, a certain covert cultural essentialism tends to creep in, even as biological essentialism is vigorously rejected.

But "nice" in particular--I think that part of what's been going on here, I meant to say, is that culturally there is this training/belief for women in particular, a lot of us anyway, that we must all get along, without direct confrontation. So that 1) personal relationships get a lot more emotionally loaded and 2) when confrontation *does* erupt, it can be all the bigger and uglier for all the backlog.

A posit, no more.

belledame222 said...

>It's not about freakin liking or not liking sex. It's about the notiongthat one can claim that certain kinds of sex are somehow tools of the patriarchy. Furthermore, the biggest disputes have been over, not hetsex, but sexual minorities and dissidents and that's where I get pretty irritated having seen my friends and loved ones treated like dirt.>

That, too.

Violet Socks said...

But "nice" in particular--I think that part of what's been going on here, I meant to say, is that culturally there is this training/belief for women in particular, a lot of us anyway, that we must all get along, without direct confrontation...

That's interesting and worth talking about; it's the connection with radical feminism as a "nice girl" thing that ran it off the rails for me. Because if there is anything radical feminism has been about for as long as I can remember, it's been "fuck that nice girl shit."

The sex-negative thing, too, I strongly disagree with. Radical feminism is not fundamentally sex-negative. It is fundamentally question-everything. That's it, and that's what never changes: question everyfuckingthing.

Personally, I think modern sex-positives are in fact radical feminists, to the extent that they are fundamentally interrogating the patriarchy and their own sexual conditioning. I think that radical feminists who get stuck on a particular answer to the question-everything paradigm risk complacency. I proudly identify as a radical -- shit, I'm a radical everything -- and that's exactly why I try to listen to sex-positives who want to tell me that they've found a way to detach pornography and sex work and all that stuff from patriarchy and make it work for them. I may not always agree -- I may turn the question right around and say are YOU really questioning everyfuckingthing -- but I will listen and think hard.

belledame222 said...

to go back:

>>It's a fact; women are not the majority of rapists, serial killers or war starters."

>It looks pretty clear that you appeared to be saying that "it's a fact", not just a belief, that "women are intrinsically 'nicer'">

So, okay, I don't want to leap to that conclusion:

"It's a fact; women are not the majority of rapists, seial killers or war starters"

does not necessarily mean to say

"woman are intrinsically 'nicer,'"

okay.

But my question, well, one of them, is the same one other people are asking here:

so, what *does* that mean, that women aren't the majority of serial killers, etc.?

Anything?

I mean, on the one hand, yes, it's true, of itself; on the other hand, I see statements to this effect get brought up fairly consistently, apropos of I'm not quite sure what. (Recent example: sam's comment on the Thailand prostitution thread, something about women aren't the ones who look at homeless people and decide to do horrible degrading shit to them for kicks, on account of they know the hp needs the money).

I agree with this:

>Rape and serial murder are hardly the only ways one can exhibit cruelty

and it's my impression that in a lot of online feminist/politically-relevant to feminist discussions I've seen/been in, at least, the patriarchy blaming and so on, the less obvious forms of cruelty tend to get ignored in favor of the egregious shit that men do to women, I mean pretty much exclusively.

not that that shit isn't worth talking about, obviously.

but i mean, to the point where I sometimes feel like it gets a little too comfortably,

"let's you and me unite in anger against blahblah."

...and sometimes that becomes a handy way of covering up for anger at each other.

Like, VS, I have the impression that you're angry now, and you know, if so, I can see why that would be so, although obviously I'm dismayed; say what you need to say.

belledame222 said...

VS cross-posted while i was posting that last.

belledame222 said...

what I was also going for, I think:

that (a posit) if one is culturally trained to not get angry;

then it can be remarkably freeing to have an acceptable target for one's anger, at last. Politics works well for that, in general.

so, yes, definitely, "fuck that nice girl shit,"

but I wonder if that's the whole story, sometimes.

belledame222 said...

> I may not always agree -- I may turn the question right around and say are YOU really questioning everyfuckingthing -- but I will listen and think hard.

I appreciate that.

belledame222 said...

and to revise and clarify a bit:

I get that a lot of the original radical feminists and feminisms were (and are) very much about "questioning everything."

What I've seen happening a lot is, as you say, people

>who get stuck on a particular answer to the question-everything paradigm.

Violet Socks said...

Not angry so much as a little bit uninhibited tonight 'cause I had a drinky-poo! I'm usually much nicer online than I am in person, because words always come off harsher, they live forever, and I've found myself trying to balance between sex-positive and anti-pornstitution feminists whom I like equally well.

I do think complacency is a problem with certain radical feminists today, especially one who Shall Not Be Named who is very popular despite the fact that she is a mental midget. Sometimes I think because of her all radical feminists with brains should abandon the label en masse and choose a new designation for ourselves -- perhaps Artists Formerly Known as Radical Feminists.

belledame222 said...

heh, maybe so.

what'd you drink? not absinthe?

Violet Socks said...

Long Island Iced Tea.

mandos said...

I'm currently trying to imagine what popular radfem is the mental midget, really. :)

gandhi rules said...

First off, I respect all of you and your minds and opinions. It's amazing reading all that you have to say.
I can't help but not separate the men from women. I actually think all of our ills come from human weakness and selfishness. We fear the loss of what we want so we manipulate whatever it is so we can take. It often comes out looking different between men and women but it's essentially the same inner knee jerk crap. I think it comes down to personal responsibility. What energy and intent do I want to send out into this moment, into the world? What are the consequences?
Our moms are silly rabbits. They are operating out of their own shit without stepping out of it, again what are the consequences of the lessons I'm teaching my daughters? Am I teaching them my fears? Yes.

Jean said...

I like that, gandhi.

Alon Levy said...

I mean, you start with some false premises about radical feminism --I've been a radical feminist for 35 years and it's never been synonymous with thinking women are nicer or sex is icky.

How come the people who say what you say try to wash radical feminism of its sins, whereas the people who say, "I've been a conservative for 50 years and it's never been synonymous with hating science or being against reality" are typically these who realize Bush's conservatism is bad for everyone?

Bitch | Lab said...

I happen to agree with VS, to an extent, which is why I've repeteadly tried to move this to the level of theory -- and taking radfem seriously, instead o beating up one that's stuffed full of straw.

the charge was initially leveled by Alice Echols -- that radfem went astray. She is, like VS, an early radfem and is much despised in the book I've been reading of late, Essentially Speaking.

I picked it up because, Alison Jaggar argued in the mid-80s that radfem, like every other fem was wriestling with the charges of universalism, racism, homophobia, etc. This book was said to be their answer -- hence my series of engagements with it, aborted now for another go at a loan from the library.

I have learnt, though, that this sort of focus on actually understanding other version of feminist thought is consdiered ... not so good, as a problem. I find that fascinating: to both espouse understanding and then dismiss it as useless. C'est la vie.

Bitch | Lab said...

heh. Essentially Speaking was written by Diana Fuss (a defense of strategic essentialsm contra poststructuralist critics of essentialism in radfem theory and french feminism). I meant the book, Radically Speaking.

Bitch | Lab said...

alon -- I see VS as referring to a split in radfem thought. Alice Echols has argued that radfems lost their materialist focus and went off the deepend making unsupported claims about women's superior moral virtue (though they don't make biological claims, but cultural claims that women are superior because they share a common oppression. This comes from their tendency to focus on what's called 'standpoint epistemology' (draws from Hegel --> Marx).

I'd explain more but I've typed this crap so much at the blog it's not really worth my time!

belledame222 said...

today was talking some of these general ideas out with the woman who ran the Body Electric workshop, and while we were talking acknowedging the reality of male oppression of women, one of us popped out with:

"It's a symptom. Not the cause."

...which rings right to me these days.

belledame222 said...

>I have learnt, though, that this sort of focus on actually understanding other version of feminist thought is consdiered ... not so good, as a problem. I find that fascinating: to both espouse understanding and then dismiss it as useless. C'est la vie.>

Considered by whom, do you think?

I don't think understanding the difference betwen theories is useless, personally; i think it's totally useFUL.

at the same time, though...

hm.

are you familiar with the kreplach joke, by any chance?

belledame222 said...

The other thing the workshop leader said, which really made me, and I think all of us, go "ohhhh:"

"What does it mean to be raised by a mother who doesn't know that she has a [yoni/cunt/vulva]?"

In other words: what does it mean to have been raised by a woman who was herself raised to not live in her body? As a woman, as a man? What does it do to us to be raised in an essentially sex-negative culture? What would society be like if it were normal
to live in our bodies, really live in them?

the corollary was what I think w-w was getting at with:

"You think she's passing on the message from her heart or for the sake of the survival of her children? "

..in other words: Mom did the best she could based on the tools she had.

maybe at a certain level we all do that, at that.

but in that case the implication is, well, kind of staggering.

what's that line from the start of "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy?"

something like:

"and then, one day about 2000 years after a man got nailed to a tree for suggesting we be nice to each other..."

...ah, but, then again: nice! Fuck!

i'm totally free-associating here, btw; still in sort of an altered state.

Violet Socks said...

I like the way B|L refers to me as an "early" radical feminist (also known as "old"), and it's true. Those of us who became radical in the 70s, before the balkanization of the movement, often find ourselves perturbed by the misunderstanding of what, at core, radical feminism is about. Identifying radfem exclusively with the Dworkin/Mackinnon anti-porn faction is as specious as identifying it exclusively with lesbian separatism.

Speaking of straw feminists, I myself have been guilty on occasion of making sweeping generalizations about sex positive feminists based on exposure to people who I will politely refer to as "chuckle-heads." I regret that now, since I've discovered that there is more to sex-positivism than the chuckle-head factor, and indeed there's much in it that I consider an essential part of my own feminism. A lesson, perhaps.

Bitch | Lab said...

Not meant as "old". I'm old. I'm referring to the people who made feminism to begin with.

Bitch | Lab said...

my word: fucklechucks. it confounds them. < / bitch>

Violet Socks said...

Not meant as "old".

I wasn't offended. I liked it. I'm going to start referring to myself as an "early radical feminist." Much nicer than "middle-aged bat."

belledame222 said...

I like antip's calling herself "paleofeminist." term's a keeper, I think.

antiprincess said...

not mine. someone flung it at me as an insult - context lost to the mists of memory - but I thought it sounded cool and had a nice "eminence-grise" feel to it, like "feminist emeritus".

Alon Levy said...

Identifying radfem exclusively with the Dworkin/Mackinnon anti-porn faction is as specious as identifying it exclusively with lesbian separatism.

What I see here is not really identifying radical feminism exclusively with the D/M wing - after all, Belledame herself is a radfem. Personally I use the term "radical feminism" here as shorthand for "sex-negative radical feminism," since a) it's shorter and b) most online radfems are sex-negative.

What's certain is that the blogospheric radfems tend to be extremely sex-negative: Twisty openly embraces Sheila Jeffreys, you dignify Twisty's stupidity with a comparison to Umberto Eco, Biting Beaver is for people who find Twisty too liberal, Witchy-Woo has just proclaimed that it's a fact that women are gentler than men, and Sam believes that oral sex is a patriarchal conspiracy.

Honestly, I don't know if these are representative of real-life radfems. But on the blogosphere you can identify a set of bloggers, such as yourself and Twisty, who are very different from other feminists who can be called radical, such as Jill and Jessica. If you want to define radical feminism as a big tent, feel free to; just know that my criticism is directed at the smaller tent, which includes you and Twisty but not Jill or Jessica or B | L.

belledame222 said...

Whoa.

Well, first of all, I don't really identify myself as radical, at least not a radical feminist, in that it's been my understanding that the term means that the "root" of most if not all oppressions is the "patriarchy," i.e. men as a class oppressing women as a class. I've found a lot that makes sense to me that undoubtedly comes from that, I've been known to use the term "patriarchy" (although I think now I have a somewhat narrower definition of the word than the way some other people are using it), and there are aspects of radfem that I'm sure I'm influenced by; but ultimately I'm not at all sure that I see the *primary* or even necessarily most important, categorically, oppression as that of men over women.

For one thing, my own identity and queer theory lead me to believe that gender is more complicated than that; for another, while I can totally understand why any individual would put her feminism, her focus on male oppression of women first, I make a distinction between that and the belief that overturning "the patriarchy" is THE most important thing, categorically (i.e. for everybody). It strikes me as a little too convenient that I just happen to be a member of the most/primarily oppressed class. I mean, if I were going to try to be truly "objective," as much as anyone can be, I think it'd be just as plausible to buy the posit that white supremacy is THE primary oppression; or rich over poor/clss theory; or colonialism. It just so happens that I am a white woman of upper-middle class extraction, though, so...

I don't see VS as sex-negative.

>Witchy-Woo has just proclaimed that it's a fact that women are gentler than men

Problematic as I've found some things things w-w has said, here and elsewhere, to be fair, that's not exactly what she said here.

belledame222 said...

Twisty is like Umberto Eco?? how so?

truth be known i know fuckall about Eco, really.

mostly i think she was trolling, but whatever.

belledame222 said...

Here's one breakdown of some schools of feminism, okay:

http://www.uah.edu/woolf/feminism_kinds.htm

Probably I'm more of a liberal feminist than anything else; more of a liberal than anything else, in general. I like "radical" in that I think it's important to get to the roots, and I do like digging; but the term is associated in my mind with "hardline, my way or the highway" that I don't use it very often. (that, and surfer-dude talk; my errant youth. i had a whole post about this, somewhere).

I've read enough of the i-feminist site that I think I can safely say I'm not really down with them, for the most part, economically at least.

belledame222 said...

To clarify a bit further: I'm more of a fan of Wollstonecraft than Steinem, especially factoring in historical context, although they both obviously did their part.

BL is coming primarily from socialist feminism, with other influences woven in, including Black feminism, as I understand it. i also think she might be feeling a bit irked as she's been researching and writing rather extensively about all this (different schools of feminism) for a while now, and it must seem like people are pretty much starting from square one without referring to what she's written. A lot of it's at her site.

There's also this:

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/feminism/terms/

As it happens, it brings up the "kinder gentler" business; I was not specifically thinking of this site when I wrote this post (Nice Girls/Mean Girls, etc), but clearly it's an idea that's been in the air. here the author, who is writing from the POV of socialist fem, chalks up that notion to "cultural feminism:"

>As radical feminism died out as a movement, cultural feminism got rolling. In fact, many of the same people moved from the former to the latter. They carried the name "radical feminism" with them, and some cultural feminists use that name still.

(Jaggar and Rothenberg don't even list cultural feminism as a framework separate from radical feminism, but Echols spells out the distinctions in great detail.) The difference between the two is
quite striking: whereas radical feminism was a movement to transform society, cultural feminism retreated to vanguardism, working instead to build a women's culture. Some of this effort has had some social benefit: rape crisis centers, for example; and
of course many cultural feminists have been active in social issues (but as individuals, not as part of a movement). [JD]

Cultural feminists can sometimes come up with notions that sound disturbingly Victorian and non-progressive: that women are inherently (biologically) "kinder and gentler" than men and so on.

(Therefore if all leaders were women, we wouldn't have wars.)

I do think, though, that cultural feminism's attempts to heighten respect for what is traditionally considered women's work is an important parallel activity to recognizing that traditionally male
activities aren't necessarily as important as we think. [CTM]

I have often associated this type of statement [inherently kinder and gentler] with Separatist Feminists, who seem to me to feel that women are *inherently* kinder and gentler, so why associate
with men? (This is just my experience from Separatists I know...I haven't read anything on the subject.) I know Cultural Feminists who would claim women are *trained* to be kinder and gentler, but
I don't know any who have said they are *naturally* kinder. [SJ]>

What I'd found weirdest about BB and a couple of others who seem influenced by her, or by whoever's influencing her (besides Dworkin, I expect), is that she often writes like a separatist but is sharing her blog and activism with her male life partner.

I have no issues with male feminists in general; but that, now, that always struck me as, well, odd.

that and a few other things, but well nevermind that now.

belledame222 said...
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belledame222 said...
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belledame222 said...
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belledame222 said...

Other schools that probably influence me, directly or indirectly: anarcho-feminism; existential feminism; "erotic feminism," which I'd never heard of before that website but, hey; socialist feminism (more and more so, these days); postmodern feminism/queer theory; spiritual/goddess feminism; transnational feminism; and transfeminism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism

I'd never heard of "Amazon feminism," but I think Amazons are the hawt, so: I'm down, probably.

although i do tend to agree with Molly Ivins' (my favorite liberal feminist) assessment of Camille Paglia as "an egocentric, raving twit."

anyway "Granny Gets a Vibrator" and "Brutal Women" are kickass sites.

Winter said...

Finally, I will posit that for many of us (obviously not all), in fact the person who’s had the most influence on us and with whom we’ve had the most complicated emotional relationship, the most investment, the most…is not some faceless Patriarch or even the husband/boyfriend, but rather dear ol’ Mom.

In my case that is certainly the truth. My mother and I have a very complex and difficult relationship and she's the only person on the planet who can dominate me. I am more concerned about what she thinks than anyone else. She's a Roman Catholic feminist by the way.

I think there are plenty of things to talk about there that focuses on those, from a feminist perspective, without particularly talking about men. Along with female friendships, lesbian relationships, the nature of power and intimacy in all kinds of relationships between women...

I do agree with you that feminism needs to look more at relationships between women.

Violet Socks said...

Alon, I've told you several times now that you're misinformed about the history of radical feminism and about its modern manifestations. The fact that you continue to insist on your ignorance is bewildering to me, but whatever make you happy. But it makes it impossible to discuss the subject with you.

Violet Socks said...

I don't see VS as sex-negative.

No, I'm not sex-negative, and I never have been. Gah.

witchy-woo said...

">Witchy-Woo has just proclaimed that it's a fact that women are gentler than men.

Problematic as I've found some things things w-w has said, here and elsewhere, to be fair, that's not exactly what she said here.


Thank you!

You know, mostly the reasons why I butt out of discussions such as this is because fellow contributors kind of 'paste' what they think I 'should've' said (as a radfem) over what I've actually said. I get so sick of being misrepresented I just stop joining in.

For all our differences, bd, it's nice to know that you actually read what I've written!

witchy-woo said...

VS:

*headdesk*?

Radfems do not have a problem with sex.

Radfems (mostly) cannot be described as "sex negative".

Radfems do have a problem with patriarchial organisation that keeps women so poor that they'll accept money from men for the masturbatory use of their genitalia in order that said women can feed their kids. But that doesn't mean radfems are "sex negative". That just means that sex as a means of socio-political power is a no-no.

Is that wrong?

belledame222 said...

Well, there's also the argument that sex is *always* bound up with sociopolitical power one way or another.

and the angle that maybe then the primary focus ought to be on the fucked-up socioeconomic system rather than singling out sex work per se. There's more than one way to be a whore, after all; and more than one way to exploit the poor and vulnerable.

and, too, I know enough people (not just women, btw; the hetcentric angle of these discussions always bugs me!) who work in the sex industry who do find it not only a satisfying career but a vocation, a calling, that I can't dismiss the whole profession out of hand; even though I do recognize that there are many many people who indeed find it degrading and abusive.

at any rate I don't see how criminalization of either the workers or the customers helps matters. lord knows that the added stigma doesn't exactly make the work any *less* degrading or dangerous.

I mean, I don't love most drugs, either, and I recognize that addiction is real; but I still also believe that the War On Street ("some") Drugs has been a monumentally misguided effort.

Violet Socks said...

Well, first of all, I don't really identify myself as radical, at least not a radical feminist, in that it's been my understanding that the term means that the "root" of most if not all oppressions is the "patriarchy," i.e. men as a class oppressing women as a class.

That's one way to define the radical in radical feminism, yes, but another way is to define radicalism as looking at the "root" of sexism, the root of the problem.

Back in the day, the ladies at NOW wouldn't touch sexual issues (abortion, rape), with a ten-foot-pole, and utterly refused to challenge men on the fundamentals. It was all about politely asking the men in Washington if perhaps a few ladies could join the club, assuming they dressed properly and acted like men. NOW refused to touch abortion (we have Roe because of radfem); they refused to mention rape (we have sexual violence awareness because of radfem); they refused to challenge the way fundamental relationships between men and women were ordered, even in terms of asking men to do housework (radfems were the first to hold public discussions about housework).

Liberal feminism only became intellectually credible once it had absorbed all the insights and gains made by radfem and made them mainstream.

For women like me, the radfem mentality has always been the only real way to do feminism. You have to look at root causes. Especially if you're focused on history and understanding social phenomena, it makes sense to study women as a class -- indeed, no other form of feminism is even productive for that kind of analysis.

belledame222 said...

That makes sense, esp. in light of your earlier distinction between looking for answers and settling on One True Answer.

what d'you make of the above-linked article's distinction between radical feminism as it once was and "cultural feminism?" and the notion that (a number of) people now using the term "radical feminist" mean something closer to what those authors are calling "cultural feminism" than what used to be called "radical feminism?"

belledame222 said...

For me, my issue with looking at women as *a* class isn't so much that I don't believe in expanding the framework in the ways you cite; it's more that I find the binary too limiting. I mean, I recognize that it's certainly possible to be a radfem and still look at intersecting oppressions (racism, classism, colonialism, homophobia), as opposed to other problems as a subset; I just see a lot of the latter approach about, and I do think that it partly derives from the notion that *all* women can be seen as *a* class.

witchy-woo said...
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cicely said...

Violet - You might recall that when you wrote a definition of radical feminism on your blog a while ago, I said that by that definition I was certainly a radical feminist. I read something somewhere, which I'll try to find - it was like a scale - that placed me quite well. It would make me a radical liberal feminist or a liberal radical feminist. That's because I'm not either one without the other.

I have a question for anyone who wants it in relation to all of this. What do you think separates feminists who have 'womyn' and 'wimmin' as part of their language and feminists who don't? Upfront I'll say that I never made that leap myself. It never felt right for me - but neither have I had a negative response to other feminists using those terms. I'm not trying to draw lines with the question, just see if there's a subtle but definable 'something', at a personal or political - whatever - level that exists that makes the difference. This might seem frivolous, but I really am a little bit curious about it.

Violet Socks said...

VS: *headdesk*?

Yes, exactly. Apparently everyone who defends Twisty's right to engage in her own style of rhetoric on her own blog is now "sex-negative." I'll have to send an email to Amanda to alert her.

what d'you make of the above-linked article's distinction between radical feminism as it once was and "cultural feminism?" and the notion that (a number of) people now using the term "radical feminist" mean something closer to what those authors are calling "cultural feminism" than what used to be called "radical feminism?"

Nomenclature's a bitch.

First of all, I think of cultural feminism as an explicitly woman-centered attempt to create an alternative feminine space, in art or life. Essentialist notions may or may not be included. That simply doesn't describe most feminists who call themselves radical, including the anti-pornstitution faction, who are interested in transforming this society.

The second problem is that I don't think Echols' supposed trajectory (radical feminists became cultural) really matches what happened. Radfem splintered into many different factions, and new theories and permutations emerged. Lesbian separatism, goddess worship, the anti-pornstitution faction, etc. And quite a few feminists just remained undifferentiated radicals, like me.

For example, look at Gloria Steinem, who is a good test case for how inadequate labels are: she's the most famous radical feminist and has continued to call herself a radical throughout the decades. But she wasn't part of the Dworkin faction, she certainly didn't become a cultural feminist, so what do you call Gloria? Some people have called her a "liberal" feminist because she became deeply involved in NOW-style political action, but then most of us embraced traditional political action -- while continuing to espouse radical ideology. I think Gloria herself has said that she's been labelled every kind of feminist, but she personally still calls herself a radical.

For me the biggest difference is simply between feminists and non-feminists. That sounds overly obvious perhaps, but it's my lived experience. I have a great deal in common with all other feminists, and there are elements of most of the various strands in my own philosophy.

belledame222 said...

Fair enough.

I guess for me I see some elements of what they're calling cultural feminism in some peoples' -reasons-for being anti porn/prostitution, particulary when combined when being anti-BDSM and other non-monetary sexual expressions. I know that for you it's mainly a concern about real-life exploitation of the actual participants. Some people also seem to be of the belief that these are expressions of some inherently male/patriarchal/something sexuality, and that therefore it's best not to perpetuate them.
That seemed to be some of what was fuelling the anti-BJ brigade (butbutbut you CAN'T like doing that! you just...CAN'T! you're a woman; that's a MALE thing! it simply doesn't make sense!)

Violet Socks said...

That seemed to be some of what was fuelling the anti-BJ brigade (butbutbut you CAN'T like doing that! you just...CAN'T! you're a woman; that's a MALE thing! it simply doesn't make sense!)

I just went back and read through that thread at Twisty's (yes, I'm procrastinating today). What struck me was just how tiny the anti-BJ brigade really was. In the first thread it took over 70 mostly pro-BJ comments before the "you're just a tool of the patriarchy" mantra started, and even then the overwhelming majority of commenters continued to defend BJs.

Most people were saying very reasonable things like: sure, sex is saturated with patriarchy, but so is everything else; it's entirely possible to create non-oppressive sexual enjoyment even in a patriarchal society; BJs do feel physically good and are not inherently degrading or patriarchal; all kinds of consensual sexual pleasure is fine; it's in fact patriarchal to condemn one form of sex; this debate is supposed to be a fucking GAME and the good feminist/bad feminist crap is bogus.

And this was in what is supposedly a hotbed of radical feminism, all from regulars who thoroughly enjoy Twisty's radfem blame-the-patriarchy approach to analyzing society.

That doesn't address your statement, really; it just seems to me that the comments of a few people are being given disproportionate weight.

Violet Socks said...

What do you think separates feminists who have 'womyn' and 'wimmin' as part of their language and feminists who don't?

For me, it's just that I could never bring myself to deform an English word like that. I'm sensitive to gender issues in language and have been since I was a child: I strenuously avoid words like 'mankind' or the universal 'he.' But actually changing the spelling of a word has always struck me as more distracting than anything else. And where do you stop? When you start looking at the etymology of words, there's no end to the hidden sexism.

belledame222 said...

> What struck me was just how tiny the anti-BJ brigade really was.>

You know, this is something that I have been noticing a lot in these intrablog blow-ups: it really only takes a couple of people--sometimes only one person--persistently being assy to turn it into a free-for-all food fight. and by the end of it it's nearly impossible to separate the froot from the chaff.

belledame222 said...

per wimmin, English language and so on:

BL has a quote in her rotating files that I kind of like; something to do with how trying to maintain the purity of the English language is kind of futile on account of English is pretty damn impure to begin with.

otoh I agree that it's ahrd to know where to stop. and just in general "wimmin" and so forth kind of puts me in mind of RenFaireSpeake, you know.

then again again, I know a lot of TG folk have been trying to make the pronouns "hir" and "sie" and "ze" and others catch on. which, again, kind of reminds me of some sort of pseudo-Chaucerian thing; but, I can understand the need for it. sometimes "him" and "her" really *aren't* sufficient.

piny said...

then again again, I know a lot of TG folk have been trying to make the pronouns "hir" and "sie" and "ze" and others catch on. which, again, kind of reminds me of some sort of pseudo-Chaucerian thing; but, I can understand the need for it. sometimes "him" and "her" really *aren't* sufficient.

I described them as "genderqueer esperanto" on an Alas thread. Personally, I wish people would start using them for everyone when they use them, rather than just for genderqueers.

I don't like wimmin/womon because they're usually tied to cultural or biological essentialism. No one ever says "transwimmin." I've even heard them used to draw a distinction between wimmin-identified-wimmin and plain old (male-identified patriarchy-fucking) women, which is creepy as hell.

belledame222 said...

ooh, yeah, that is creepy.

I've seen, and sometimes used, "sie" instead of "s/he" or "one" or whatnot.

(actually, i wonder what it'd be like to use "whatnot" instead of all pronouns. maybe I'll try it! or, not).

belledame222 said...

Cicely, I'd be interested in that scale, too, if you find it.

the other reason I tend to ID more with "liberal" is because I feel like "liberal" has gotten a bad rap all 'round these days. it's a nice word, lots of good denotations in my book, really:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/liberal

1.
a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.
d. Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.
2.
a. Tending to give freely; generous: a liberal benefactor.
b. Generous in amount; ample: a liberal serving of potatoes.
3. Not strict or literal; loose or approximate: a liberal translation.
4. Of, relating to, or based on the traditional arts and sciences of a college or university curriculum: a liberal education.

***

"licentious" works, too, for that matter...

Violet Socks said...

Ha! I was just thinking about this -- how these labels are so slippery -- and decided to check this thread again. And lo and behold you just posted on it.

Call yourself what you like! The understanding in the academy of liberal versus radical feminism differs from the popular understanding quite a bit. I could easily qualify as what most people think of as a liberal feminist. And I'm quite sure there are some radical feminists who would think I don't belong in the club.

cicely said...

VS - VOR (voice of reason) - I know you're in no way detached, but as always, kudos to you for your informed, fair-minded and well articulated overview...

And belledame, I second this:

For me, my issue with looking at women as *a* class isn't so much that I don't believe in expanding the framework in the ways you cite; it's more that I find the binary too limiting. I mean, I recognize that it's certainly possible to be a radfem and still look at intersecting oppressions (racism, classism, colonialism, homophobia), as opposed to other problems as a subset; I just see a lot of the latter approach about, and I do think that it partly derives from the notion that *all* women can be seen as *a* class.

For me what's problematic is that 'collective class responsibility' idea, that encourages the not at all uncommon accusation that sex-pos feminists are 'pursuing their own orgasms at the expense of 'all' women.' Ditto for whatever arguements go against a given radfem grain.

The 'what kind of feminist am I?' question sure has become fuzzy - and the scale thingy I mentioned was actually an article on the UK feminist site 'the f word' - posted in 2002. On reading it again I guess it might be most accurate for me to call myself a radical liberal feminist, (RLF) with the goal of conveying that I'm 'to the roots' (but not accepting sexism to be the original oppression), sex-positive, anti-separatism and believe in male feminists. Radical feminism must include liberal principles, as none of what has been achieved to date would have been achieved without them, so it can kind of go without saying, (RF). Not that I'm saying what anyone should or shouldn't call themselves, and not that I have any expectations, but if RF did come to denote 'ant-porn; anti-prostitution; anti-BDSM and other forms of so called d/s relating, inclusive in the ideology automatically, (which it often does already albeit erroneously at present) things could become a lot less confusing.

Here's the address for the article (to copy and paste into address bar as I can't do links).

http//www.thefword.org.uk/features/2002/11/where are the radicals

Let me know if you have a problem accessing this.

cicely said...

Oh, no, no, no! RLF doesn't work. That's Radicalesbian feminist. LRF then? Always spelled out? Radical liberal feminist or liberal radical feminist? As Werzel used to say in Pippy Longstocking - 'Nothing works'.

cicely said...

I think my resistance to or lack of embracement of womyn/womon/wimmin is at least twofold. The not tampering with language because where does it end, and also my uncertainty about what it actually meant - in full. i.e does it come out of cultural or biological essentialism? Now I also bracket the words in my mind with the concept of WBW (womyn or woman born womyn or woman) and while I once somewhat thoughtlessly 'allowed' this concept, (uncharacteristically 'went with the flow') I have recently rejected it because in practice it means discrimination against transwomen. I'm not of the belief that WBW spaces are required for healing (from disempowering patriarchal social conditioning) enough to justify the protection, promotion and export of the kind of virulent anti-transexual politics espoused by the likes of Sheila Jeffreys, Janice Raymond and Germaine Greer and their followers.

I had not yet come across the pronoun 'sie'. How is it pronounced? Is it a coverall pronoun? I often write 's/he'.

Alon Levy said...

Alon, I've told you several times now that you're misinformed about the history of radical feminism and about its modern manifestations.

Insisting that people already agree with you under a veneer of being informed is better-suited for echo chambers than for real discussions. When asked to produce the information you supposedly have that I don't, you give answers that would make theologians proud. They have a reputation for sticking to their talking points no matter what the subject is, so for example when someone mentions the abuses of religion, they bring up irrelevant points about religion's glorious history.

Apparently everyone who defends Twisty's right to engage in her own style of rhetoric on her own blog is now "sex-negative."

Her style is to talk about men in ways that make MRA talk of women sound respectful. When you defend that to the point of comparing her to Eco, and bury your head in the sand about her man-hatred, you deserve to be tarred by association.

we have Roe because of radfem

The attorneys who argued Roe were libfems.

Alon Levy said...

As for academic definitions, there are times they're appropriate. Political debates are as a general rule not one of them. It doesn't matter that mathematcians define groups to be sets with a binary operation when we talk about groups of people. It doesn't matter that libertarian economists and political scientists define libertarianism as a philosophy of freedom from government intrusion when we talk about contemporary libertarianism. And it doesn't matter that radfem academics define radical feminism as the idea that there's more to feminism than legal equality when we talk about how Twisty acts like an idiot.

Alon Levy said...

I had not yet come across the pronoun 'sie'. How is it pronounced? Is it a coverall pronoun? I often write 's/he'.

I think it's pronounced "zee" (not "zed"...), but don't quote me on that.

Personally I'm enough of a sucker for pristine English, pun intended, that I use he/she or a coverall he (I shun the singular they). But if I need to use a gender-neutral pronoun and have the time and space to explain it to people, I'll use ey and ta. Ey is declined ey/em/eir/eirs; ta is declined ta/ta/tas/tas.

In general, in a sentence I prefer ey to be the one that's closer to the subject: "John told Matt ey aced the exam" = John aced the exam; "John told Matt ta aced the exam" = Matt aced the exam.

Violet Socks said...

All right, Alon, I will explain this to you as clearly and unsnarkily as I can. You are being extremely rude. Because I've known you for a while I'm trying to avoid having an argument with you, but you are definitely being very unpleasant and very unfair. I don't like it.

Several of us who know Twisty have defended her right to her own style of rhetoric. You obviously don't understand her style nor do you appreciate it, and there's really nothing anyone can do for you about that. Maybe someday you'll get it, maybe not. You also don't seem to grasp the personal circumstances involved. But if you think that Dr. B. and Chris Clarke and Amanda and I are all 'sex-negative' because we defend Twisty's right to her own style, then you're smoking something. I myself have said numerous times now that in my view the main cause of that BJ shitstorm was the couple of twits who take everything Twisty says too seriously -- her acolytes very much included.

For you to suddenly call me 'sex-negative' when you know that I'm not, that I'm distinctly and sometimes embarassingly sex-positive, that I don't even buy into the objectification theory of pornography nor do I support censorship, is just beyond understanding. It suggests, honestly, that you're having some kind of emotional response that has nothing to do with logic or with me. The fact that you respond this emotionally to the statement by a 47-year-old lesbian in Texas with a life-threatening diagnosis of cancer who says (on her own blog) that thinks blow jobs are icky...well, I don't know what it means. But I don't think it has anything to do with me.

As for the history of radical feminism, I've given you thumbnail sketches a few times, and tried to correct your mistake that all radfems are Dworkinites. When you reply that I (who lived through it) am lying, what can I say? Really?

I really don't know why you are behaving like this to me, especially since I've gone out of my way to be as accommodating of you as possible on my blog.

Chris Clarke said...

Insisting that people already agree with you under a veneer of being informed is better-suited for echo chambers than for real discussions. When asked to produce the information you supposedly have that I don't, you give answers that would make theologians proud.

Jesus, Alon. Get a grip. It is being explained to you in perfectly clear terms. The fact that you're not understanding it is no doubt confusing to you, accustomed as you are to understanding everything right off.

The fact is, though, bright boy though you may be, that you are leading with your chin in this discussion.

No one's insisting that you like or even respect Twisty. But repeatedly, and with no apparent ironic intent, referring to her as an "idiot"?

Again, I empathize with your confusion. It was a very long time in my life before I met someone smarter than me. (Not counting Erdös.) When you're not used to it, it's hard to recognize it in someone. And if you assume you're smarter than everyone you meet, a person saying things you only half understand will necessarily seem an idiot.

Twisty is smarter than you in many ways.

Her style is to talk about men in ways that make MRA talk of women sound respectful.

If you honestly believe this, I'd suggest you look at your attitudes toward women a bit more closely, because you're giving the MRAs waaaay too much slack.

A cursory reading of Twisty's blog — if you grant the existence of such things as nuance, hyperbole, humor, irony, the rhetorical persona, historical context, snew, demographics, and the lack of a level gender playing field — provides abundant and palpable evidence that (hold on to your thinking cap here!) Twisty loves men.

I'll repeat that, because I've heard that repetition is a useful pedagogical tool.

Twisty loves men.

I'll repeat that, because I've heard that repetition is a useful pedagogical tool.

Twisty loves men.

Look at the way she treats non-hostile male commenters, even when we Don't Quite Get It. Look at the observations during the recent blowjob foofuraw — observed rightly or wrongly — about the difference between Twisty's response to men and to het women. Think about which group of people disappoint and anger you more: people you hate, or people you love.

If you don't get that, I suggest you withhold judgment on her writing until you read her more carefully lest you make a fool of yourself. (More.)

Auguste said...

Not counting Erdös.

Or Hawking.

belledame222 said...

"snew?"

belledame222 said...

(...Thus finishing his grand survey,
Disgusted Strephon stole away
Repeating in his amorous fits,
Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!...)

belledame222 said...

("Swift's -physical- repulsion from humanity is certainly real enough, but one has the feeling that his debunking of human grandeur, his diatribes against lords, politicians, cort favorites, etc., have a mainly local application and spring from the fact that he belonged to the unsuccessful party. He denounces injustice and oppression, but gives no evidence of liking democracy. In spite of his enormously greater power, his implied position is very similar to that of the innumerable silly-clever Conservatives of our own day...people who specialize in cracking neat jokes at the expense of whatever is 'modern' and 'progressive,' and whose opinions are often all the more extreme because they know that they cannot influence the actual drift of events...

Swift, however, is not a simple-lifer or an admirer of the Noble Savage. He is in favor of civilization and the arts of civilization. ...But his implied aim is a static, incurious civilization--the world of his own day, a little cleaner, a little saner, with no radical change and no poking into the unknowable...

Happiness is notoriously difficult to describe, and pictures of a just and well-ordered society are seldom either attractive or convincing. Most creators of 'favourable' Utopias, however, are concerned to show what life could be like if it were lived more fully. Swift advocates a simple refusal of life, justifying this by the claim that 'Reason' consists in thwarting your instincts. ...The notions that life here and now is worth living, or that it could be made worth living, or that it must be sacrificed for some future good, are all absent. The dreary world of the Houyhnhnms was about as good a Utopia as Swift could construct, granting that he neither believed in a 'next world' nor could get any pleasure out of certain normal activities. But it is not really set up as something desirable in itself, but as the justification for an attack on humanity. The aim, as usual, is to humiliate Man by reminding him that he is weak and ridiculous, and above all that he stinks; and the ultimate motive, probably, is a kind of envy, the envy of the ghost for the living, of the man who knows he cannot be happy for the others who--so he fears--may be a little happier than himself. The political expression of such an outlook must be either reactionary or nihilistic, because the person who holds it will want to prevent society from developing in which his pessimism may be cheated...

From what I have written it may have seemed that I am *against* Swift, and that my object is to refute him and even to belittle him. In a political and moral sense I am against him, so far as I understand him. Yet curiously enough he is one of the writers I admire with least reserve...

...Swift falsifies his picture of the whole world by refusing to see anything in human life except dirt, folly and wickedness, but the part which he abstracts from the whole does exist, and it is something which we all know about while shrinking from mentioning it...In the queerest way, pleasure and disgust are linked together. The human body is beautiful; it is also repulsive and ridiculous...The sexual organs are objects of desire and also of loathing, so much so that in many languages, if not in all languages, their names are used as words of abuse. Meat is delicious, but a butcher's shop makes one feel sick; and indeed all our food springs ultimately from dung and dead bodies...

...In his endless harping on disease, dirt, and deformity, Swift is not actually inventing anything, he is merely leaving something out. Human behavior, too, especially in politics, is as he describes it, although it contains other more important factors which he refuses to admit. So far as we can see, both horror and pain are necessary to the continuance of life on this planet, and it is therefore open to pessimists like Swift to say: If horror and pain must always be with us, how can life be significantly improved? His attitude is in effect the Christian attitude, minus the bribe of a 'next world'... It is, I am certain, a wrong attitude, and one which could have harmful effects upon behavior; but something in us responds to it..."

--Orwell, "Politics vs. Literature")

Alon Levy said...

As for the history of radical feminism, I've given you thumbnail sketches a few times, and tried to correct your mistake that all radfems are Dworkinites.

I'm fairly certain I explained that I simply use the word "radfem" as a shorthand and that I realize not all radfems are Dworkinites. In fact I said that thing in this very thread.

The fact that you respond this emotionally to the statement by a 47-year-old lesbian in Texas with a life-threatening diagnosis of cancer who says (on her own blog) that thinks blow jobs are icky...

"I posit that no woman likes blowjobs" != "I think blowjobs are icky."

It is being explained to you in perfectly clear terms.

Well, about as clear as explaining in Japanese. Well, not including your mantra that Twisty loves men, but my main attack on man-hating comes from reading Witchy-Woo and not Twisty, so you're defending the wrong person here.

Look, I'm going to explain my main attacks on the various blog radfems here (the emphasis is on "main"). Witchy-Woo hates men. Ginmar is in general irrational. Twisty is sex-negative. Biting Beaver is a fascist. Sam is a paranoid. Violet confuses academic curiosity with activism.

All of them seem to apologize for one another's excesses, which is why there's spillover. For example, my main beef with Violet here isn't that she herself hates sex, but that she compares Twisty, who does hate sex, with Eco, and dignifies "I posit that no woman likes blowjobs" with the word "analysis."

Twisty is smarter than you in many ways.

It doesn't make her right any more than Hawking's intelligence makes him right about running away to another planet. I don't really care if someone's smarter than me; in general I don't try to compare because, honestly, it's just mental masturbation. Intelligent people act like complete idiots all the time.

belledame222 said...

Cicely, I can't actually get that link to work.

Dan L-K said...

...if you grant the existence of such things as nuance, hyperbole, humor, irony, the rhetorical persona, historical context, snew, demographics, and the lack of a level gender playing field...

Can I grant all that, and still pretty much think she's an asshole?

(I mean, it doesn't get Dave Sim off the hook; I don't see why she ought to get more of a break.)

Dan L-K said...

BD, what's the source of the "Celia shits" verse? ISTR seeing it quoted before, in Carter's The Sadeian Woman, but I've never seen an attribution.

belledame222 said...

There is that.

And slack for illness/bad news, yes, but...well, I've said my piece on that.

generally I'm not real impressed with shit-stirring for the sake of it. or with "am I kidding or am I serious? or am I looking like I'm kidding but really serious?"

I mean, if one wants to bring up the subject of abuse, specifically abusive ways in which men force BJ's on women, there are better ways of doing it; if one wants to play a lighthearted game where there's no real stake in it for anyone, there are better ways to do that, too.

that, and: while I don't count myself among these people anymore, there are a fair number of folks who are and were personally hurt by the stuff *she* said, not the commenters (I mean: "don't quit your day job?" wtf?) No one's asking for sackcloth and ashes here, but a hint of an acknowledgement that oh yeah, other people are hurt, at some point, might be nice.

just sayin'.

belledame222 said...

slip.

Johanthan Swift, "The Lady's Dressing Room"

http://plagiarist.com/poetry/8049/

belledame222 said...

and I still don't know what "snew" is, except perhaps the past tense of "snow."

am trying to make that work in context.

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
belledame222 said...

...are you a Carter fan, too, dan l-k?

belledame222 said...

that said, T's own rudeness and tendency toward mockery and misrepresentation of would-be allies (which I and others have noted predates this particular blowup, albeit less overtly) doesn't particularly excuse returning the favor, particularly when it bleeds over onto other people who are mostly, I think, defending their friend. and I include myself in that "it isn't an excuse," as I've been doing it myself.

ultimately I don't think this has very much to do with the correct definition of "radfem" or any other ideology, you know.

Chris Clarke said...

Can I grant all that, and still pretty much think she's an asshole?

Well sure.

and I still don't know what "snew" is

Not much. What snew with you?

sorry.

belledame222 said...

that *also* said, I have made a promise to Alon that I will smack anyone who uses his youth as a weapon, and I do try to keep my promises. not quite there yet; but, fair warning.

belledame222 said...

*groan*

Alon Levy said...

Think about which group of people disappoint and anger you more: people you hate, or people you love.

It can go either way. On the one hand, there's the issue of expectations: people I love can disappoint me more when they say stupid things. A good example of this is Belledame's attacks on Twisty, which stem from the fact that Belledame used to really dig IBTP.

On the other, people I love sometimes come from the same framework I do, and typically they tend to be more likely to listen. A good example of this is the response my Lewontin article got; I'm positive if Razib had written it, PZ and you and Raven would've been much more dismissive.

belledame222 said...

to clarify that, although I mostly agree:

not so much "say stupid things" as "say things that I find personally offensive as well as off the mark, and don't attempt to engage at all when I/others who're in the same boat respond."

Flaming I can deal with; stuff I think is stupid I can deal with. "This is how things are; I said it; that settles it;" not so much.

Chris Clarke said...

I have made a promise to Alon that I will smack anyone who uses his youth as a weapon

And well you should! Alon and I share a certain amount of life history, and referring to our common experience was my intention, not to denigrate his youth, which is after all temporary. He's certainly smarter and more thoughtful than thousands of 35-year-old Internet users.

Alon Levy said...

As I said, I don't really compare. Part of the reason stupid people drive me nuts is that I tend to assume everyone I meet is about equally smart, so stupid people provide me with a sort of cognitive dissonance. The blogosphere's mostly stupidity-free, but other places where people interact aren't. The stupidest bloggers I've met are geniuses compared to the group of ordinary women I used to hang out with, who cemented my self-identification as a feminist more strongly than anyone else I've talked to.

As for our common experience, I must confess I can only infer from what you talk about. If you blogged about it, then I haven't read the post (sorry). In general, my self-perception isn't "smarter than you" but "a better debater than you" or "right where you're wrong." Well, not you personally - I generally cite you as one of the two people I know who are better debaters than me (the other's Raven) - but most other people I talk to.

belledame222 said...

chewing lip.

ime: there are many ways to be stupid; and many ways to be smart.

Dan L-K said...

A Carter fan? Oh, yes, though I confess I haven't read much beyond The Sadeian Woman and The Bloody Chamber. I do find her (at least what I interpreted as) dismissiveness of anything vaguely Jungian a little grating, though I certainly see where she's coming from; but she was a fine and brilliant writer and thinker, and the world's poorer without her.

cicely said...

Cicely, I can't actually get that link to work.

I just found the article by googling:

Natasha forrest where are the radicals?

It was the entry at the top of the opening page. Handy.

belledame222 said...

thanks.

belledame222 said...

>Her style is to talk about men in ways that make MRA talk of women sound respectful.

For the sake of perspective, may I just add:

there is nothing anywhere in the feminist blogosphere that remotely approaches this kind of shit:

http://www.menarebetterthanwomen.com/

(no, don't try to get into it with him, really. just look quietly and leave. some shit is best not disturbed).

belledame222 said...

...the above being a haha funny i'm just kidding guy, note. lots of haha funny i'm just kidding folks all around. there's a charming racist one I've been looking at (god knows why); "jungledumb." he's just kidding, though, folks.

this one has his own theory of the BJ; one gets the impression that actually he's not too fond of them either, insofar as he apparently believes that the stealthy insidious womenfolk started giving them as a way to keep the mens from noticing they weren't making them chocolate chicken pot PAH anymore.

interestingly he doesn't think much of ellipses either.

Alon Levy said...

there is nothing anywhere in the feminist blogosphere that remotely approaches this kind of shit:

http://www.menarebetterthanwomen.com/


FSM... now, I'm going to join BB's echo chamber, if you don't mind. Orwell was right about a lot more than just war when he said war propaganda inspires sympathy with the enemy.

belledame222 said...

FSM?

Alon Levy said...

Flying Spaghetti Monster - the one true religion.

hedonistic said...

Witchywoo Wrote:

"Radfems do not have a problem with sex.

Radfems (mostly) cannot be described as "sex negative".

Radfems do have a problem with patriarchial organisation that keeps women so poor that they'll accept money from men for the masturbatory use of their genitalia in order that said women can feed their kids. But that doesn't mean radfems are "sex negative". That just means that sex as a means of socio-political power is a no-no.

Is that wrong?"

(sorry, I don't know how to do the HTML.)

Witchywoo, thank you. I am right in the middle of a blogrant that addresses this very problem. I may just quote you instead. Could be I've got radfem blood coursing through my veins after all . . .

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