Sunday, June 18, 2006

(Riffing off the comments from the post below)

this was in reply to a comment by brownfemipower, and it got so long I figured it should be its own post.


I'm not trying to discount the hurt women who follow her feel, rather instead, trying to ask why is it always the bitchiest meanest mean girl out there who is the "leader"?

In other words, in terms of radical feminism's leaders, radical feminism has some very deep and consistent issues with race and sex positivism that many many women have seen through and called them out on--why on earth, then, are people still following radical feminism(that is, instead of creating something of their own)?

Because I think there's a difference between being hurt by somebody who you normally appreciate, but there's still the space to talk through the differences and create something stronger, and being hurt by somebody who is so invested in their thinking they will never ever change.

***

BFP: I think that's correct, yes.

The thing is--well, one thing is: it can take a while to learn to differentiate between the two. Frankly I suspect a lot of people (people who are themselves capable of dialogue rather than just monologue, I mean) never do get to that place of being able to tell who's able/willing to hold dialogue with you, (even partially), and who's not.

Because if you've already started investing emotionally in someone, most of the time? You're not going to want to see something you don't like in them, unless you absolutely have to. That goes double or triple for people who you've (consciously or not) started to see as a kind of authority figure.

And that shit...is very old. That shit is probably as damn near universal as anything's gonna be. or, well, anyone who has unfinished business with the parental figures. Which I'd argue is probably most of us, to one degree or another. It's the psych talking, yes, but: I've found a lot of truth in it.

and, too, peers matter: many of us have unfinished business with our peers from early early days. The shit, it comes up. It just does.

So, okay, but even assuming "look, there's at least a part of at least some of us that KNOWS junior high school is over, right? that KNOWS this isn't Mom, this is some person I only know through the Internets for fuckssake, I don't even know her real name..." putting that aside (along with the awareness that there's also a part of most of us to which the intellectual awareness that yesyes we're grownups now doesn't mean jack): why radfem in particular? And why mean girls in particular? And why Twisty in particular?

There're a few things going on here, I think.

First of all: I've said this elsewhere, and others have too--what appears to be a rather high percentage of the folks who ID as radfems or are attracted and lurk along the fringes, have suffered some form of sexual abuse and/or abuse at the hands of men. Not all of them, of course. But a lot. Even I think compared to the general population (a big ol' percentage of women--hell, people, period, have been abused, of course).

And by saying that, I'm not at *all* trying to suggest that having been abused somehow diminishes one's right to speak on sexual issues or anything else. (This was the one thing I didn't care for in R. Mildred's rant, which I otherwise loved; there was, I felt, a whiff of that, even though she made a disclaimer later. it's complicated, abuse).

What I am saying, actually--yeah, in fact, you know, I could see where RM's piece might be seen as confirmation of this, certainly when viewed as a standalone: there is no real successor to Dworkin for addressing rape, domestic violence, and other abuses from a *feminist* perspective, or indeed any sociopolitical perspective. That I'm aware of; that may well be my myopia; please do correct me if I'm way off on this. I mean, I know bell hooks addresses abuse, certainly. anyway, wrt Dworkin at least, there's a passion and charisma that's rare, and I can totally get why she still has a following, even posthumously...among people who can identify with pretty much everything she says, that is.

And that last bit is the key to the rest of it, of course: *if* you can relate to everything someone like Dworkin or even Twisty says, then, yeah, it feels TERRIFIC. Validation at last! It all makes sense, at last! And, too: she writes *so* well, she's so charming, so witty, so...she draws you in. She's a role model; she's a champion; she's *for us,* in a way maybe no one else has been. That's *huge.*

(All this, of course, is not limited to radfem; it happens in any number of ideologies and institutions and followings. I have some speculations as to whether it might be that much more intense here because of the ways in which women are socialized in this culture--relationships are that much more important, *maybe*--as well as the abuse factor and the whole "personal is political" business; but, some other post).

One might hope that someone who's been through that process could, intellectually or on a gut level, *get it* when something happens like the business between nubian and Twisty, few months back. Hey: you've experienced alienation and hurt at being marginalized; look over here! same thing happening with us, from you! Can you get it? can we talk? but, apparently, no, on the whole.

And *that* is partly because of the whole "we're comfortable here, whatsyerproblem anyway?" which is of course endemic to human beans even if it *is* particularly maddening and ironic to think that someone who *did* know what it was like to be uncomfortable/marginalized from *another* perspective would just. not. see it. That part's just annoying as fuck, and disappointing. And then there will always be a handful of people for whom the penny drops, at least. and that's always gratifying.

But then the other part of this particular business, as BL has been noting, is inherent in the ideology of radfem itself.

All ideologies are capable of being grabbed by black-and-white, my-way-or-the-highway thinking/proponents, of course.

But in this case I think what BL's saying--correct me if I'm wrong, I think you're making a good case for this here--is that radical feminism is one of those ideologies, like fundamentalist religious doctrines of various sorts or Maoism or (gulp) fascism, that has black-and-white, my-way-or-the-highway built right into the original conception.

So...yeah. Not all people who currently style themselves radical feminists are foaming zealots or even completely rigid ideologues, I'm sure. Hell, I know at least a few radfems who aren't either, whom I feel like I can keep talking to even if we disagree; I'm sure there are plenty more. But...I think what BL's saying is, if it seems like there're more zealots, apparently incapable of actual dialogue (at least beyond a certain point, outside of the self-limned circle) in radfem than you'd find in some other branch of feminism, well, that's probably because....there are. And at this point I think I'd tend to say that I agree. Whether the doctrine attracts people who were already pretty black-and-white, my-way-or-the-highway or whether the people get that way from being around other radfems and reading the literature, I think is kind of a chicken-and-egg question.

One of the tenets of...

damn. cult is *such* a loaded word.

but one of the things that makes a my-way-or-the-highway sort of organization/group work, I guess, is having a strong, charismatic leader.

There are of course strong charismatic leaders that *aren't* my-way-or-the-highway, not like that; MLK, for instance. But they're pretty rare.

Robert Jay Lifton talks a lot about the dynamics of how such groups work. It's not about any particular ideology; but there are certain things you want to look for. The strong leader; the use of shaming and guilt as self/internal policing methods. "Loading the language"--certain key phrases that everyone is supposed to know what they mean; if you have to ask, you just don't get it. Scientology is particularly known for this: their stuff is packed with funny-sounding jargon. It's used as a way of delineating who's in the know and who's not, for one thing: in/out. Us/them. It's also what was called "stopthink" in 1984. If you have to ask...don't. Shame, shame. Aren't you stupid and brainwashed. Read the manual; all will become Clear.

But anyway: no, Twisty isn't a cult leader. I don't even know that I'd call her a "mean girl"--at any rate, I think most of her readers, including civil and complex and not-at-all fanatic people like Chris Clarke, see her as kind and decent and level-headed and more than capable of grasping nuance, on the whole. And for all of me she probably is, to her friends, in person, even most of the time online, really: well, genteel, certainly, and amiable. Does she say nasty, bitchy shit? Well, yes. That's part of her charm...or not. I know it was for me; for I also have a goodly amount of Mean Girl in me. There are a lot of benefits to being mean, not all of them necessarily bad or wrong (I think; I may be kidding myself here..) It can be a way of bonding. It can be a way of venting. It's a form of taking power. And power isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The thing of it is: when you couple that mean streak with the rigid ideology, then inevitably what happens is, some people are forever going to see the good side, and some people are going to feel most of the brunt of the backhand; and it will be chalked up to ideology, and/or just good fun.

So in answer to your question, bfp: the people who go off and form their own movements are the ones, by and large, who've felt the backhand.

But if someone's *so* rigid, such an ideologue, then why don't *more* people see it?

Well...I think maybe, you know, that's what we're seeing right now.

It's one thing to alienate a handful of BDSM practioners. (And hey, she's so charming and funny when she does it; and she's right-on about so other many things; do we have to agree on every little thing? No, I suppose not. Maybe. Perhaps).

The racist or at least not-getting-it wrt race--well, yes, that's a bigger demographic, and, erm, yeah, that was problematic.

But in the final analysis: well, you're white, you're relating to pretty much everything else she says, what she said didn't seem THAT bad...mmm, oh, hell, she's just so *cool,* and no one else writes like her, and...

(some people, some who maybe don't even fit the offended demographic du jour, wander away in twos and threes, quietly; but then, that's true with anyone, perhaps).

And then there's the class stuff, and the "no one can afford to have kids" stuff, and--well, she uses hyperbole, she's funny, she's. Hm. Well. Mm. Probably exaggerating to make a point. Yeah.

So but now what's happened is two things:

1) she really did have a terrible awful no-good day, and, understandably, let slip more overt nastiness, perhaps, than she's done before

2) at the same time, she took on a demographic that's considerably broader than any of the others she's dissed before. Now it's everyone who's ever given or received a blowjob and liked it.

One or the other probably would've pssed without nearly so much comment. Both together: well, it played the way it played.

And now: we'll see what happens, I guess.

I do wish her well, in spite of it all. Who the hell wouldn't?

I think ultimately mean always comes from somewhere, you know, and is perhaps covering up for something else. Maybe.

In fact...

I don't like to tell this story.

But: when I was a freshman in college, I remember, I was...well, bluntly, kind of a mess. For a whole bunch of reasons. Part of it was being in the closet, still, but it wasn't all of it. (Mom is/was quite the expert blamer herself, for one thing).

anyway one day I remember walking along the beach with one of my suitemates and her boyfriend.

I'm not sure what prompted me to say this--that is, I don't remember what was said right before it.

But what I said was, I remember this part, roughly:

"Oh, I don't care about being happy so much. I just don't want anyone *else* to be happy."

The suitemate, who was not one to hold her tongue, said something swift and reproving and disapproving . I was, I expect, cast down, chastened, ashamed of myself..and angrier than ever.

(One more reason why shaming people is a really lousy way to get a progressive movement off the ground, p.s.: even if it appears to have the effect you want, you're building up a reservoir of anger as well. it goes with the territory. no one likes to be shamed; "justly" or not).

Of course *now* I look back on my younger self and I feel the same way I'm sure the suitemate did: ew! That's...wow. That's kind of sad and fucked up, dude. Why would you feel that way??

And in retrospect, I think part of the answer, although I didn't know it at the time, had to do with watching my suitemate and her boyfriend tripping blissfully along the beach, in approved heterosexual coupledom...while meanwhile I was still possessed of the belief that I *couldn't* be gay, but *wasn't* attracted to men ("yet," I still thought, only...not)..and I believed the best I could hope for was to just have these feelings for women go away. Certainly I couldn't see myself as happy in the way they were...and I wanted to kill them. And I'm sure the suitemate picked that intention up, if not necessarily the reason why. People do, you know.

The path from there has been long and winding, and I don't think I've reached the end, if there is an end to such things.

But maybe part of the reason I react so strongly to Twisty and her judgmentalism and her (what I interpret as, perhaps incorrectly) fears of sexuality, maybe even rage, maybe even envy...is that I see the remnants of that in myself, and I remember what that was like, and I didn't like it.

64 comments:

EL said...

I think that most people who are at all engaged in feminism have been, to some extent or another, where Twisty's been, on a great deal of issues.

I was talking to a good friend about this the other day who has a 16-year-old in her life who just discovered feminism and is nuts about Mackinnon.

A lot of people fall in love with the "radical" first off because it's so satisfying. Malcolm X saying it was "good news" when 120 random white people were killed in a plane crash is fucking satisfying. When I was 19 years old, I loved that shit. So did all the people I hung with.

Twisty's meanness (and I think BL's right that this black-and-white shaming mentality is built into radical feminism as a doctrine) is appealing because it speaks to certain visceral truths.

What's funny about visceral truths is that they are only visceral truths, they are not The Truth.

For example, when Mackinnon points out that most sex is, rather than being opposed to rape, in some sense on a continuum with rape, many folks get that "aha!" feeling because she's touching on ONE, ONE thread running underneath our culture. But that's one thread of millions and so, while what she says may "feel true" at first to women who are "in the right place"
(often, as you point out, survivors of sexual abuse of some sort) to be affected by it, it's not, strictly, true. Charismatic leaders are masters at making stuff that is only 1/1,000,000th true seem like The Truth.

Twisty can write in a "mean-girl" way that does make blowjobs seem like something no one would ever want to do. What feels true about this is that many women do feel compelled to engage in this act sometimes when they'd rather be doing something else. What unravels though around the discussion are the other threads that accompany that one, which are also true. Like, a straight woman might love giving a blowjob in _______________ circumstance.

I wonder about Twisty sometimes. Is this for real? Or is she out there somewhere cracking up at her parody feminist website? She's so extreme. She extreme in a way that always made me wonder: why does everyone and their sister link to this crazy? I'd stop by there from time to time, usually clicking out and shaking my head after one post.

I'm a bit extreme myself these days, in the sense that I don't really see any use for the extremists who seem to drag the rest of us through their shit. The other day I said on this blog that I think maybe these people are good for recruitment and little else. But I wonder what their intervention really does to what we're trying to achieve. I mean, as much as people were defending their right to do these things, how many men walked away from their computers self-conscious about their "funk-filled bratwursts" (among other slurs that were levied against the male body)? And how many women felt strange about their activities in their bedroom? How many women became concerned about what their sexual partner was thinking when they went down on him? It's just ... sad.

And you know what? Not one shred of good was done. Sure, the good analysis and theorizing often comes in trying to recover our movement from the likes of Twisty, but ... well, I don't know how to go on. I'm just ... ugh.

brownfemipower said...
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brownfemipower said...

i just wanted to say real quick that you mentioned that there hasn't been anybody to replace or step up to dworkin's space now that she is gone--but i disagree...woc domestic violence groups are basically a faction of dworkin and mackinnon--there was the race issue that they so woefully neglected, and then there was the colonialism issue which would position porn not as the "creator" of sexualized violence, but rather as a tool of colonialism, there was the single issue politics which could never address the need of the entire woc community---etc etc etc--so native women were actually the first to break from the dworkin/mackinnon camp as there was absolutly nothing in their answers to violence that would be at all helpful to native women negotiating colonialism--they formed women of all red nations. And then other woc saw what they did/accomplished, and they very easily broke off from dworkin/mackinnon and addressed their own shit as well.

so, as such, i would recommend checking out native women's literature, like andrea smith, lee maracle, linda tuhiwai smith, the trask sisters, and so many others. I recommend starting with Andy smith as she is the one of those who most directly deals with sexual violence and possible responses to it.

I also just wanted to say really quickly that the organizing that i am a part of doesn't really have "leaders" per se. we have deliberatly chosen to challenge hierarchies of power by confronting the system of power that is in place in the world right now and creating something new.
Specifically, you'll very very rarely find a case where women are afraid to challenge what an "elder" says about something. Sure, you better have your ducks in line and your shit together if you're going to take her on, but for the most part, differences are not negotiated through power, but through a shifting of lenses--if we don't like how the solution for het middle class black women plays itself out in the lesbian working class puerto rican community, we shift our focus as a movement to examine why our movement isn't working for that particular group, and then we get to the shitty work of talking talking talking to make the new goals work.

i guess what i'm saying is that the idea that there is a singular leader that will answer all our problems is a foriegn one to me, as most of the theory/organizing i am a part of never (yes I mean that word) has "leaders".

that's how it was possible for me to fall in love with gloria anzaldua when i first started reading theory, and still love her now, even tho i disagree with so much of what she has to say.

I can form my base of political thought off of women that I really like, like andy smith and lee maracle, and use the parts of anzaldua that i like to inform and develop that base. they are all interacting with each other to create something even stronger than what was there originally, you know?

From what I see, i don't see that flexibility or shifting of lenses in white radfem thought--and me being the person that i am, a stubborn, bullheaded, 'i'll do it *myself*, nobody can tell me what to do, i'd gladly take the wrench for my beating, cuz fuck you that's why, sort of girl, i couldn't exist in something as inflexible as radfeminist theory/organizing.

I don't want to be "included" I want my problems addressed. And if the theory involved isn't flexible enough to address my issues, than fuck you, i'll do it myself.

(I had some jokes about having to get off the computer to give hubby a father's day blow job, but then i thought, geez, how that get eaten up by the masse??? so i removed the jokes--but then I thought--geez, that's a perfect example of the control/shame thing so i thought I'd at least let it be known that i actually faced the issue just within this post!! :-)

belledame222 said...

bfp:

>i just wanted to say real quick that you mentioned that there hasn't been anybody to replace or step up to dworkin's space now that she is gone--but i disagree...woc domestic violence groups are basically a faction of dworkin and mackinnon--there was the race issue that they so woefully neglected, and then there was the colonialism issue which would position porn not as the "creator" of sexualized violence, but rather as a tool of colonialism, there was the single issue politics which could never address the need of the entire woc community---etc etc etc--so native women were actually the first to break from the dworkin/mackinnon camp as there was absolutly nothing in their answers to violence that would be at all helpful to native women negotiating colonialism--they formed women of all red nations. And then other woc saw what they did/accomplished, and they very easily broke off from dworkin/mackinnon and addressed their own shit as well..

You're right, of course. esp. wrt the colonialism angle. And I will be following up on some of those reading suggestions.

I guess where I was coming from was more the whole sex-pos/radfem business, particularly; that i could understand why someone who was still processing very traumatic experiences/invasions of her sexuality, like, "I don't even like to be *touched* half the time," might not find a whole lot to speak to her in, say, "The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women." Much as I do like Tristan Taormino and do think that that kind of work, happyfunparty technical stuff and all, is feminist in that it provides a space for women to say, "yes, I *do* like that, yes, I *do* want to learn how to do that, how to ask for it, how to pleasure myself. Yes."

And you know, no one can be all things to all people; TT's got her particular niche; I don't even know that "feminist" is one of her primary identities. Susie Bright, yes. Betty Dodson, certainly.
Audre Lorde's "Uses of the Erotic" is of course a classic text.

I guess what I'd like to see is more addressing of abuse, both on the micro and macro scale, within the (loosely defined) sex-positive community. Or, if it's out there, (and I know it is w/in certain niches, at least) I'd like to be more aware of it, myself; and to help make other people aware of it. I'd like to be able to do it in a way that doesn't start reifying certain acts as Verboten or at least deeply suspicious; doesn't discount the possibility of sex work as a satisfying career; doesn't insist on a heteronormative "patriarchal" framework, whether for or against; doesn't leave anybody out.

I mean, basically that would be (to some extent at least) Carol Queen and Susie Bright, among others (Dorothy Allison, certainly)...except, again, somehow the stuff that makes it to the mainstream, that tends to be more the all happy happy fun all the time stuff. Understandable, but...hm.

belledame222 said...

>I don't want to be "included" I want my problems addressed. And if the theory involved isn't flexible enough to address my issues, than fuck you, i'll do it myself.

I'm um, with you.

And yeah, I get it wrt the ambivalence about "leaders." Thing of it is...leaders are powerful, the attraction is always there. Maybe "we" (who we? you me?) don't need 'em, really...but it's worth recognizing that there is a widespread yearning for, at least, a charismatic figure who can "say what we've been feeling but couldn't put words to." Ideally would be getting us all to the point where we found our own voices, our own words, yes.

Happy Father's Day to all! (patriarchy, schmatriarchy)

belledame222 said...

--oh, yes, I read too quickly. You're right of course; it's definitely "leaders," not singular. And I was probably stacking it somewhat by singling out Dworkin; even within radfem thought there's picking and choosing, no doubt. Twisty for example leans more toward Sheila Jeffries than Dworkin, from what I understand. I just focused on Dworkin because she does seem to me to particularly have the uh "it" factor, whatever that really is. Charisma, passion, something. And was thinking of the recent commemorative in particular.

belledame222 said...

>I wonder about Twisty sometimes. Is this for real? Or is she out there somewhere cracking up at her parody feminist website? She's so extreme.>

I think part of it is because she's usually avuncular and pleasant on a conversational level, and uses fairly genteel language for the most part, even in the midst of ranting, she doesn't necessarily come off as too extreme. At any rate, when I was a regular there, I know I was mostly focused on the rantage about the horrible abuses or rightwing political fuckwittage as well as the friendly food threads (yeah, that *is* a good question, someone posted somewhere else: why is it only fraught when it comes to sex? who says food and eating aren't fraught with Meaning? well, that's yet another post). I think at first I just sort of filtered out the sexual stuff that made me go "buh?", or figured, because she was intelligent and nuanced in other respects, that I must be missing something, and anyway oh well everyone's got their funny spot, we don't have to agree with everything, blahblahblah...

...until she pushed one of my sore spots. She and her readers, I should say; and the way she handled the conflagration, which was pretty much like this, only not as overtly rude/insulting.

And in a way, you know, I'm grateful for it, because had she not, I might have stayed there longer and not gone off to explore other voices, other points of view...and I think both my circle of friends/acquaintances and my book larnin' are much the richer for it.

belledame222 said...
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belledame222 said...

...but anyway, what I was going to say was, that whole "is she kidding or what?? she's so...extreme. she *msut* be kidding"...once I pegged it as yes it *is* extreme, I didn't have time for it anymore; and I definitely don't have time for the "haha I was only kidding except I'm really not, you'll never know, either way joke's on you. Ha ha." Yeah, ha ha my tuchis; I could get that from Ann Coulter if that's what I wanted. Either you're a flaming, hardcore radical, or you're just amusing yourself and fucking around with peoples' heads; I don't think you can have it both ways. Not the way she does it, anyway. And either way, honestly, I'm not really interested.

Bitch | Lab said...

I guess I'm confused about leaders.

I think ahrwhen was just speaking for herself in saying, well, there are these women here who are considered leaders to which we orient ourselves.

leaders merely by what they'd say is popular vote where no one formally held one, it just happened: linking and site traffic and participation.

but it is mainly by virtue of the fact that they've all been on line a long time. in 5 years, the whole sea might just change.

i wouldn't ever say, though, that in the shifting of seas over the next five years any of that would be random. it's definitiely not going to be free of the structures of gender/race/class/sexuality.

--

or, to take the radical WOC community. While you might not feel you have leaders, you'll be read outsiders as having leaders: who's the more vocal, who gets picked up by the big blogs and big boys, who gets their blogs liste in wikipedia, or picked up by Inside Higher Ed., who gets the phone calls and email from the media.

e.g., when I first found you guys and lurked i saw you as the leader. you were the most vocal and full of energy and ideas. And kortney, too. very articulate and great discussion at her blog.

others appeared to be looking up to her, too. (caveat: of course, my interpretation)

obviously, _I_ was lurking and reading and seeing a vibrant community and i remember posting to say at my blog: look over there, these women know how to build _community_. because it was clear it was a community.

but what outsiders see who give a casual glance? Well, they'll look, unfortunately, to things like ranking and links and who's talking about whom.

story:

i started out rather oriented to the local tampa community of bloggers.

one day, Slashdot (huge tech geek site) picked up my blog and two others from the blogging community we'd been building. The author used the three as examples of what people were doing: rightwinger, feminist lefty, and a taxicab driver/photographer telling his stories.

All of a sudden, the blog got what's called the 'slashdot effect'. I don't remember how many people showed up, but it was over 1000 which was big huge to that blog then.

And, they weren't just looking at the page. They were clicking through 10-20 page, hanging out there for a long time. (luxury of geeks who can get away with surfing, I think, not that my blog was inherently interesting to a 97% male audience of largely cyberlibertarians.)

I though, well hell! And started posting about other blogs in the Tamba Bay area. So, if they were reading, oh, they'd catch one of the other bloggers that should get recogniztion too.

Happy to get recognition for myself, but geez, so many good writers, so many cool tech blogs locally, a writer's blog, a film fan's blog, a guy with cancer, a former big radio show host with advanced diabetes.

---

So, how do you stop people from seeing those leaders -- try as you might not have them?

I think it's hard.

e.g., I think nubian came in for the heat b/c she'd been picked up so much, people resented that.

what about me? i've been blogging. this is unfair. that kind of thing.

when she wasn't well-behaved negro, anyway, this set them off for feeling what they were already feeling.

that's kind of rusde, isn't it? i have no clue how they felt.

Bitch | Lab said...

oh and add:

I started to feel a little uncomfortable as others looked to me as a leader -- totally by virtue of an accident. some author decided he liked my writing and tolerated my brand of feminism, saw some familiarity with tech geek stuff, etc.

i mean: there are other feminists and lefties in this blogging community.

was only by virture of the accident that i happened to be the right combo of things that might be slightly of interest to a bunch of geek men.

had I ended up taking on the offer to write for that big tech geek community, well of course, that would have encouraged others to point and say, "Ask BL. She's the 'leader'. Even though it'd really all been rather a series of accidents.

not saying i have no skills. just that there are a lot of people who have them.

i forget what they call this in the literature but anyway...

Bitch | Lab said...

BfP

that's a really good critique of a claim i recently read from the book Radically Speaking.

Her thesis was that the violence against women movement had been co-opted and depoliticized because it was sidelined to the world of psychotherapeutic treatment.

I thought she had a pretty good point but since Belledame's influenced my thinking, I was trying to work out of I was so sure that it had to be either or.

Like: is it really a good idea to ignore therapy in the case of childhood abuse and insist that those issues were ignored and instead, jump into the movement.

Not saying that women of color working on domestic violence issues do this. Rather, that the author seemed to think the problem had nothing at all to do with the need to work through psychological issues and what they needed was a good healthy dose of blaming.

e.g. she seemed to be railing against the idea that people recylce the violence abuse and often end up as abusers themselves.

Eeek. Maybe I'm deluded, but I think that's pretty damn true and I'm not clear how feminism will help you do that all on its own.

I definitely think, as you point out, there can be an approach to address violence that can include both approachs: personal mental health and feminist activism, etc.

belledame222 said...

I know what you mean, BL. there are *so* many amazing voices out there. I'm just pissed that I can't give them all the time they merit. I feel like a kid in a candy store.

I recognize that I have a goodly competitive streak, no doubt. Sure, I like attention. And yeah, I get a certain drive to "beat" or at least surpass a rival. But at the same time--yeah, I've never understood the impulse to keep it all to yourself, to -not- share. What would be the point? Especially in a world where it's all about dialogue? Does that make sense?

belledame222 said...

>e.g. she seemed to be railing against the idea that people recylce the violence abuse and often end up as abusers themselves.

Eeek. Maybe I'm deluded, but I think that's pretty damn true and I'm not clear how feminism will help you do that all on its own.>

Uh yeah. Eek is right.

there's definitely a legit critique to make of a lot of psych, that it (many psychologists) don't/doesn't take a broader sociopolitical view.

at the same time I also think it's a legit criticism of political activists/ism, that it/they tend to pooh-pooh psychology, or any sort of "internal" work. perhaps because "the system* of meds-dispensers and so on is also The Enemy; perhaps because, well, we simply haven't time for that kind of navel-gazing, or something.

--which, I gotta say, is especially weird to me in the context of something like radfem, where "the personal is political" and it's all about endless self-interrogation. it maketh not the sense. on the one hand, rigourously deconstruct your every desire and longing; on the other hand, don't give any real legitimacy to the world of feelings, or at least feelings that aren't O.K. by the standards of the Ideology.

well, that can't end well, I think.

anyway, I think at minimum, even if one doesn't go in for formal counselling, distrusts Freud and that whole bit: it really is kind of key to find *some* kind of context in which you can be both kind and honest with yourself; and have a mentor/ally who can mirror you back in a way that both accepts you/sees you and challenges you.

Otherwise, what's gonna happen is you're gonna play out your psychodrama anyway; just not consciously. You'll do it through your politics, your activism, whatever.

Lis Riba said...

"Oh, I don't care about being happy so much. I just don't want anyone *else* to be happy."

Ages ago, Aristotle differentiated between two emotions we often conflate: envy and emulation:

In both, you feel distress because someone else has something you don't have.

 • In envy, the desired resolution is for the other to lose that thing or quality.
 • In emulation, the desired resolution is for you to gain it, or a resonable facimile thereof.

Now, Aristotle separated these because it requires different rhetorical techniques to evoke one or the other in an audience. But it's also very helpful to recognize in and about onesself and one's desires.

There are some cases where I wish to elevate myself to another's level, others where I want to bring others down to mine.

Lis Riba said...

I think that most people who are at all engaged in feminism have been, to some extent or another, where Twisty's been, on a great deal of issues.
I was talking to a good friend about this the other day who has a 16-year-old in her life who just discovered feminism and is nuts about Mackinnon.
A lot of people fall in love with the "radical" first off because it's so satisfying. Malcolm X saying it was "good news" when 120 random white people were killed in a plane crash is fucking satisfying. When I was 19 years old, I loved that shit. So did all the people I hung with.


Can't speak for exactly that, but I know I was much more radical when I was in college.
And then I discovered ways in which theory and reality clashed, and I found myself taking a more nuanced look at a lot of issues.

I don't want to call anyone immature or inexperienced, but my husband works with small children. They see things much more in terms of black and white. And I remember being much more absolutist when I was younger.

Trying to reconcile hardline feminism with my own desires for BDSM brought me to sexpos feminism. My views on gun control moderated after I decided to go out to a shooting range so I could understand what gun advocates were talking about. [And the Monkees song "Shades of Grey" is now playing in my mind.]

EL said...

1. Women of color working on these issues DON'T GET PLAY. So that's why no one really sees a person taking Dworkin's place. Media are extremely squicky about allowing women of color to talk about sexual violence - because there's a lot of ignored meaning in what they're saying that doesn't always (or ever) apply to white women's understanding of sexual violence. When this film "No!" came out a few years back (about sexual assault on black women), it was amazing to me how there was this tiny flurry of press and then I never saw this woman quoted in the mainstream press on rape or dv or anything after that. It's that whole, "all the women are white, all the blacks are men" thing. No matter how much work women of color are doing on this, the mainstream will never pick one of them as the "leader" because of white supremacy, and so women looking for this info are more likely to come across Dworkin first. Which is damn frustrating.

2. I think you're all right that Twisty's the real deal. I guess it's just hard for me to believe. In the way it's hard for me to believe that Fred Phelps isn't a radical queer. Wishful thinking probably, but ...

3. I probably shouldn't call people who are that black and white immature" which is basically what I did, but it's hard for me not to see it that way because that's been my own trajectory and I've watched that unfold in the lives of others around me. Maybe it's also a sort of wish that people will "grow out of it" though in Twisty's case, it seems unlikely.

Winter said...

When I first read Twisty's post, quickly I should add, I just thought it was her usual style of feminist polemic, if a little more button pushing than usual. I didn't appreciate how upsetting it would be for many of her loyal heterosexual feminist readers. Nor did I appreciate, until now, just how much of a leader, even a hero (shero anyone?) she has become for many people in the feminist blogging community. The resulting rage and disapointment reveals some of the problems with setting up certain individuals as great feminist leaders. I can totally understand that sense of disapointment, and the admiration of Twisty, but perhaps people were wrong to set her up on her sky high pedestal and imagine that she spoke for them and was always going to say things with which they would be able to fully identify.

Anyway, that aside, I do wonder if this drive to pick out certain people as spokeswomen for feminism is really drawn from our terrifyingly hierarchical culture and should be critiqued and resisted for that reason alone. Does this urge actually come from "the patriachy"? This doesn't mean I think great feminist writing and thinking shouldn't receive the attention it deserves, but I do think a lot of people don't get the attention they deserve because a few have become viewed as authorities deserving of a zillion comments. And as woc of color bloggers have argued, this hierarchy clearly reflects other social hierarchies. As far as I'm aware all the perceived great leaders are white.

I should say, though, that I don't think Twisty has set herself up as a leader. She writes what she thinks and people have gravitated towards her blog for various reasons.

We have no desire to be leaders of anything, but we have noticed on our blog that the readership has changed a lot over the last year, partly, we strongly suspect, as we have unwittingly disapointed people who assumed we agreed with things we actually didn't!

Winter said...

Now I'm going to defend radical feminism ( :

I think radical feminism represents a world view, or a way of interpreting the world, which many women find compelling for a lot of understandable reasons. I know my own feminism has been quite heavily influenced by radical feminism and I called myself a radical feminist for several years. Radical feminist thought provided me with powerful intellectual tools at a time when I needed them. I don't call myself radical feminist anymore because, since then, my thinking has been further influenced by post-structuralism, post-modernism and, especially, queer theory. I certainly don't disavow my period as a radical feminist, but my worldview and my preferred critical tools have changed.

I have good friends who identify as radical feminists and we have a few radical feminists in our group. They are in no way unable to debate respectfully or work with those who don't agree with radical feminist analysis. (We do insist, though, that everyone in the group treats each other with respect or we couldn't function). So, I'm not prepared to homogenise radical feminists and I think some of the problems in the feminist blogging community are caused by the nature of blogging. There is a temptation not to treat each other as real people with feelings behind the pseudonymous names.

Also, I don't think arguing that women are drawn to radical feminism because they have been abused is helpful. I know radical feminists who have not been abused and queer, sex positive feminists who have been raped. In fact, I've noticed the "other side" arguing that women who engage in sex positive feminism and support the rights of sex workers have probably been abused, which is why they don't "respect themselves." So this argument isn't going very far! I don't actually think you were using the argument this way, but saying someone does or thinks something because they've been abused is often used to dismiss them. We see this especially in relation to lesbian sexuality.

What I see, rather, are competing feminist world views which have become extremely entrenched and personalised. Now factions have developed. And I can't see anyway out of the problems at the moment.

belledame222 said...

>Also, I don't think arguing that women are drawn to radical feminism because they have been abused is helpful. I know radical feminists who have not been abused and queer, sex positive feminists who have been raped. In fact, I've noticed the "other side" arguing that women who engage in sex positive feminism and support the rights of sex workers have probably been abused, which is why they don't "respect themselves." So this argument isn't going very far! I don't actually think you were using the argument this way, but saying someone does or thinks something because they've been abused is often used to dismiss them. We see this especially in relation to lesbian sexuality. >

Yeah, I know. I was inwardly wincing as I wrote that, because I saw it in exactly that same way, winter. I know. And for sure, there are straight women and lesbians, women who've been abused and haven't been abused who are radfems; and there are straight women and lesbians, women who've been abused and women who haven't who are sex workers and kink pos.

I really really really amn't/wasn't trying to suggest that "aha, that's it: there's something wrong with Them." I hope not. I don't mean to. I know it's more complicated than that; it always is.

I guess all I'm trying to say is:

...agh.

Part of the problem, I think, is that there's become such a specific and rigid narrative of what "abuse" really is. Part of that might be the Dworkin influence; part of it comes from psych and the self-help movement, and popular conceptions and cherrypicking from both. I think there's a terrific case to be made that everyone's been abused, one way or another. And has probably been an abuser, one way or another. At the same time that is not something I want to reify into a doctrine, (Alice Miller comes close, at least with the first part of the equation), because I think it leads to...not very helpful places, sometimes.

All I'm trying to say, I guess, is that it looks to me like radfem, Dworkin-style, offers a particularly satisfying Unified Field Theory of abuse, or more specifically certain kinds of abuse; and that I *think* a lot of women are attracted to it because of that. That's what it looks like from here, at any rate.

Now what? I dunno.

belledame222 said...

and yeah, entrenched positions, sure.

But what I always wonder is *why* people become so attached to their positions, and to any given position, in particular.

As per the online thing: well, yes, that's some of it. On the other hand I think people can become just as entrenched and embattled in real-life factional sparring too.

at least this way no one loses an eye...

belledame222 said...

The other thing is, which I think BL can make a more compelling case for than I, as she's been doing the research, is that *maybe* what used to be called radical feminism isn't so much what radical feminism is today.

a bit like, oh, I don't know, what happened to the Republican party over the last x years.

and/or (are these contradictory arguments?? could be) that a lot of the particular rigidity of the worldview can be traced back to the founding documents, Dworkin's for one; and that people who're into that tend to kind of self-select, and the theory and the practitioners kind of self-reinforce...

something.

agh.

Winter said...

I chair a feminist discussion group and I really hope there won't be any eye gouging ... especially not my eye.

I really really really amn't/wasn't trying to suggest that "aha, that's it: there's something wrong with Them." I hope not. I don't mean to. I know it's more complicated than that; it always is.

No, I didn't think that's what you were really saying, but I do think once you start talking about abuse as a casual factor in anyone's thinking, you're falling into a sinkhole. People react very differently to abuse.

Yes, I think pointing to the radical feminist theorisation of abuse and what causes abuse is closer to what you're trying to critique.

I've been blogging for about a year and there's obviously been increasing factionalism, which is disturbing, but also educational in a lot of ways. Of course it predates blogging.

I was just reading Becki L. Ross's essay in the Druculla Cornell anthology Feminism and Pornography:

"In some cases, it feels to me that the 'pro legal reform/anti-porn' and the 'anti censorship/pro-porn' tendencies have hardened into cemented polarities. Clearly, on issues of power, morality, pleasure, danger, and the law there is little agreement."

I'm hoping this book will at least get me to grips with what everyone's polarised about.

By the by, I don't think that argument about everyone being abused/abusers is very helpful either! Too cynical and depressing for me!

Winter said...

But what I always wonder is *why* people become so attached to their positions, and to any given position, in particular.

I think this has massively to do with how and where you are positioned in society and also the alliances and identifications that result from that position. Because I identify with queer theory and politics, for various reasons to do with my life experience, I feel impelled to form alliances with sexual dissidents and those who are marginalised. As I got older, I realised that this places me outside the bounds of radical feminist discourse which posits quite a lot of sexual dissidents as enemies of women.

That's oversimplistic, but there you go.

belledame222 said...

So I guess my question is, for instance: why would someone becomes attached to the notion of say, "gender trumps race"?

and when I say "someone," I do not mean the author of the actual statement: please do not say the name lest you summon the entity. thank you. but, as BL was noting, that sentiment didn't come out of nowhere.

belledame222 said...

>By the by, I don't think that argument about everyone being abused/abusers is very helpful either! Too cynical and depressing for me!>

Yeah, that's why I'm a bit leery of Alice Miller, even though I think that it's more sophisticated and interesting than that. But yeah, what tends to end up happening is the emphasis becomes one endless dreary cataloguing of the ways in which one was hurt, without any real concrete suggestions as to how to break the cycle. Yes, you need to understand your own shit, "the truth shall make you free;" but it doesn't *stop* there.

a little Maslow to counterbalance that, maybe.

Winter said...

Well, most radical feminists seem to believe very strongly that the oppression of women is the fundamental oppression. I used to believe this myself, not because I found it especially attractive, but because it came with the rest of the theory.

But, frankly, as a young middle-class white person, I didn't have to worry about class-based and racist oppression. My mind was changed when I started reading woc feminists and also queer theorists. I became increasingly aware of the extent to which I had been oppressed by homophobia as well as misogyny.

Why some people change their minds when presented with alternative theories and others do not is another question.

What I personally find hard to understand is why claiming to be the most oppressed group is necessary to successful feminist movement.

Right I must go and read some more about pornography!

belledame222 said...

>What I personally find hard to understand is why claiming to be the most oppressed group is necessary to successful feminist movement. >

Yeah, that's kind of what I meant. It's particularly weird when one of the tenets of your philosophy is supposedly egalitarianism. "Most oppressed" just creates a new and backasswards kind of hierarchy.

I mean, I think it's one thing and perfectly fine to say, you know, I'm only one person; this is what interests/affects me, personally; I have limited energy and resources; this is the field I'm going put the majority of my activism and thought into.

But (and this is where the whole objective/subjective thing comes up again), that is a different proposition from saying, No, This Is The Way It Is.

I mean, besides everything else: it's sort of interesting that I just *happen* to be a member of *the* world's most oppressed group, that's just the facts ma'am. You know?

Bitch | Lab said...

@ belledame

Reading the theory section of Radically Speaking, made clear earlier references in the book.

There is a lot of resentment that other feminists rejected them and came up with competing theories. They feel displaced.

And odd: attacked. I think I said this elsewhere, here. I have to back this up with some quotes, but for now, what I keep getting is outrage that anyone dared criticize them for a worldview that left out their voices of women of color and working class women, as well as 'sexual minorities'.

Which is interesting, to me, since _all_ mainstream theories at the time had that charge hurled at them.

I'm not getting the sense that in a comparable book assessing Socialist feminism, published in 1990 IIRC, that they felt endlessly attacked.

Like I said, it's almost as if they feel others were out to kill the theory instead of criticize it.

Anyway, in this other socialist feminist tome, a lot of authors examine the situation and they think that, mostly, socialist feminsm fell apart: partly b/c redfem was more compelling, partly because left theories aren't much anyone's cup of tea, and mainly because capitalism was never factored in enough. That is, they see feminism getting co-opted by the market and by employers who found it useful to watch women head off to the office to work for a lower wage than men.

But except for the section on the sex wars, there isn't some all out attack on rad fems or any other theory for that matter. It's just navel gazing about the state of that branch of thought.

And, of course, i think part of that has to do with the nature of radfem thought: it's utter insistence on the idea that change starts with the individual.

Where they went wrong is in the cultural feminist claim that the personal is political meant that you could use people's personal life as a weapon in the struggle over who had the better theory, program, political practice.

that seems to be one of Echol's problems, though she is much more concerned with what she thinks is their move toward a kind of hypostatization and reification of the culture supposedly created through women's common oppression.

because the presence of anything male identified in this women's culture might taint it. another reason why The Man in Your Head must be evicted.

This forces everything to be up for grabs and then forces endless discussions over what is women's culture and what is men's.

This is why echols complains that they lost their materialist roots. Even though they recognize that gender is socially constituted, for instance, there is no ground from which to make that analysis.

Thus, it can only be contested and thus it must be always up for grabs, with various factions struggling over the definition of what is feminist, what is women's culture, what is male identification.

If you think it's bad now, my mentor says it was far worse in the late 70s.

Bitch | Lab said...

smoochiez to lis for the aristotle quote. i could never finish On Rhetoric Well make that, "could never even get started. Probably I'd had enough from Politics and Physus.

Bitch | Lab said...

Hi Winter! Good to see your thoughtful posts!

One thought, have you ever read Jo Freeman's work on the problem with early feminists' attempts to have leaderless orgnizations? it seems like that's what you are talking about in a way.


i'm pretty sure it's online. I'd be curious what you think about it.

Bitch | Lab said...

@ belledame

and to come to your defense, since we've discussed this so much offblog and on, belledame is one of the most perceptive people on the topic of abuse and understanding that issue and its importance.

She's sometimes far more sensitive than I. E.g., when discussing one blogging approach, she squashed some of my least flattering sentiments with pointed comments. Since most of the feminists I know who've been abused and/or rape completely reject rad fem, I had a hard time thinking that the abuse issue even mattered.

I think belledame corrected my extreme view, but in a way that did not lead me to think that it was only b/c their abuse/rape that they were radfems.

otherwise, i love this convo.

belledame222 said...

>Where they went wrong is in the cultural feminist claim that the personal is political meant that you could use people's personal life as a weapon in the struggle over who had the better theory, program, political practice.>

iow: (I sound like a broken record, I think, but):

*My* personal is the political.

and, she added,

*not* because I am any sort of Authority; oh, no no no no no. Nothing of the kind! We don't believe in Authority! It just happens that my personal beliefs/experiences are reflective of The Truth. this *is* the Truth. the Patriarchy exists and, and has infected us all. one day, it will be overthrown in a glorious Revolution, and we will usher in a brand-new system, that's completely better. meantime, the personal is political: you can help by not doing anything patriarchal anymore, for it hurts women when you do. No, I'm *not* telling you what to do or not to do. Look, nobody's perfect. We all struggle. Just admit that you're influenced by the Patriarchy, too, and do your best. Is that so hard? Now go to the library and read your Dworkin (and others) to understand the theory; I don't have time to explain it all to you, and I don't have time to talk to people who are just going to criticize radfeminism/ists.

also see:

This is the Truth, the Holy Word of God. No, I am not speaking for myself; I am but His servant, speaking His truth. I just happen to be blessed enough to have found the One True Way. We live in a fallen creation. One day, Christ will return, and after a period of Tribulation, will lead us all to a thousand-year reign of peace on earth. meanwhile, you can do your part by not sinning anymore. Sinning hurts the baby Jesus, and makes Him cry. No, I'm *not* telling you what to do. Look, we're all sinners. I struggle, too. Just say, "Lord, I'm a sinner, help me please." Is that so hard? Now, go read the Scriptures. I don't have time to explain it all to you; and besides, I don't need to waste my time with mockers.

belledame222 said...

--oh, oh, this is perfect, I realize I'm late here but I hadn't been able to bring myself to read the entire fucking mess from beginning to end just now. so THAT's "puffin." well there you have it kids:

"It’s about WHY you like it, why you tell yourself and others you like it, and the unfortunate tenacity and exuberance with which any number of women will make a point to tell the world just how pleasurable it all is for them without taking the time to consider that one woman’s orgasm can still be a tool of the patriarchy used to keep all women down."

you know what. I think that maybe this is also the key sentiment behind oh say the frothing over "special rights for gay people."

"How DARE you be "exuberant and enjoy yourself in front of Me?? I'm Not Happy! but I can't own that, so--it's not me, it's the ENTIRE WORLD, and right now, specifically, YOU.

because either there's something wrong with me, or there's something wrong with you, and clearly there's nothing wrong with me, so *there must be something wrong with you*"

belledame222 said...

>1. Women of color working on these issues DON'T GET PLAY. So that's why no one really sees a person taking Dworkin's place. Media are extremely squicky about allowing women of color to talk about sexual violence - because there's a lot of ignored meaning in what they're saying that doesn't always (or ever) apply to white women's understanding of sexual violence. When this film "No!" came out a few years back (about sexual assault on black women), it was amazing to me how there was this tiny flurry of press and then I never saw this woman quoted in the mainstream press on rape or dv or anything after that. It's that whole, "all the women are white, all the blacks are men" thing. No matter how much work women of color are doing on this, the mainstream will never pick one of them as the "leader" because of white supremacy, and so women looking for this info are more likely to come across Dworkin first. Which is damn frustrating.>

Yes. And it's my own bad that I've been lazy and not gone hunting for other voices myself. And I've heard of that movie.

>It's that whole, "all the women are white, all the blacks are men" thing.>

and suddenly a few new possible insights about the whole Duke business dawn.

"gender trumps race," huh.

piny said...

...Late to this one, too:

Transpeople have a position within radical feminism that is probationary at best. We are either rejected outright or approved for reasons that have nothing to do with us--taken on because we supposedly will be useful in winning their battles. I've had radical feminists say to me in as many words that I would not exist were it not for patriarchy.

So I've never been able to emotionally invest in people like Twisty. I thought she was funny; that was as far as it went. I was always aware that she might at any time decide to talk about me the way she talks about blowjobs, you know? I've heard and seen it before, even from feminists who consider themselves to be anti-transphobic or even trans allies.

Part of my reaction to the post was overidentification with these women and with this carelessness of language. I was thinking about how I'd feel if this were Twisty's "trans" post. (Is that forthcoming? I can't wait.) I was thinking about what it'd be like to read all of the comments from people who really weren't interested in doing anything but insulting trans bodies as inherently, objectively ugly and inadequate. I was thinking about what it'd be like to read all of these comments without any complaint from the blog host. I was thinking about what it'd be like to read a hundred or so comments from transpeople, all of them speaking personally and honestly in an extremely hostile environment about what it's like to live in these bodies they have. I was thinking about what it would be like to have Twisty come back and tell them how disgusted she was to read their stories--how pornographic they were, how rude.

We have discussions about pressure (external and peer) in trans communities all the time. Few people disagree that it's there, even if there's so much controversy on its degree and manifestation. We also talk about differences in personal preference, and how fraught they are, and how difficult it can be to express an unconventional need. The customary rule of order--not always observed by any means--is to make careful distinctions between personal preferences, political beliefs, and objective statements about inherent value. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a meaningful discussion, because we would be obscuring rather than emphasizing the point.

belledame222 said...

> (Is that forthcoming? I can't wait.)

Me, neither. I can't wait to see how many different people she can alienate before she's finished.

Seriously, it drives me crazy that people I think of as intelligent and perceptive and empathic still don't see what's so wrong with what she did here.

eh, well, follow my own guideline: you don't have to have the *entire world* on your side in order to be validated.

still, though.

belledame222 said...

> I've had radical feminists say to me in as many words that I would not exist were it not for patriarchy.

answer: "and -you- would not exist were it not for yo' mama. (and we all thank her, I'm sure). Say! I've just seen the Light! I think I'm gonna go join the pro-life people now. 'later, fuckwit."

belledame222 said...

...my own identification came, as I've hinted at elsewhere, not even so much from my own experience at being in the BDSM threads, but from knowing exactly what this transaction is like from good old fashioned homophobia. The fact that these particular jackasses claim that lezzies are Just All Right With Them (hell, maybe even are dykes) doesn't change a thing. Same principle; different specifics. Go and boil your head.

belledame222 said...

btw, I saw that thread where T was on about how she and Sheila Jeffries were on the same page; and I think you came back and pointed out Jeffries' odious transphobia, and Twisty was all like, oh yeah. That. Well, that part's not so hot, I guess.

mighty white of her, really.

piny said...

btw, I saw that thread where T was on about how she and Sheila Jeffries were on the same page; and I think you came back and pointed out Jeffries' odious transphobia, and Twisty was all like, oh yeah. That. Well, that part's not so hot, I guess.

mighty white of her, really.


Honestly, I do that with other theorists. I think that Patrick Califia has some brilliant things to say about how gendervariance is treated in this society, and some fucking stupid things about how sexism works ("Women have the power to withhold sex"). If I bring up Califia on my blog, someone could very well point out his odious misogyny (or his odious perversity, or his ideas about BDSM, some of which this sub objects to. Whatever). I think it would be self-serving for me not to accept the argument that these positions are related to each other, that they both have to do with his ideas about how gender works here. That's my position on Jeffreys: her transphobia is a function of her radical lesbian feminism; it's an extension of those arguments. I can accept, however, that Twisty and other radical feminists can hold those same precepts and come to different conclusions based on a different understanding of transsexuality. And to be honest, I didn't really want to see Jeffreys' transphobia debated in that space. I would rather attempt to pierce my nipples with a plastic fork than hear word one (more) from Lucky on the subject.

It's probably not a comment I'd make there now.

The BDSM discussions suffered from the same confusion. You had all these people saying, "Yes, we discuss those issues all the time, and we agree with those problems," and then other people would respond by saying that they did not either. I've encountered discussions of gay "problems"--drug addiction, unsafe sex, sex addiction--that do the same thing. They silence community members by assuming that they are also unaware of these problems as problems, and that their objections to homophobic arguments about the cause of these problems mean that they're self-deluded and irresponsible themselves.

piny said...

You know, something else occurred to me about the argument, "Don't be ridiculous! We can't marginalize you! We don't have any power!" Excuse me while I make it all about trans for a mo:

I belong to some online communities that exist as support and information networks for queer and trans people. A lot of their members are young and otherwise isolated. Because of their individual circumstances and their minority group status, they do not have other resources. They cannot talk to their parents, or their friends, or their teachers, or their doctors, or their pastors. There is nothing available at the library, and no way to vet information found online. They have no money, no privacy, and no freedom.

This is why many of them are pretty heavily moderated, and why commenters are exhorted to be supportive and careful. If we have the power to drive people out, we have the power to deprive them of everything they have.

Under patriarchy, so the argument goes, the outside world is nearly as hostile to women. Feminists in particular. Radical and hardcore feminists in particular. They don't have any resources, or any other supportive environments to discuss women's issues. So the power to make them unwelcome is real power--not despite the relative power of the patriarchy but because of it. What kind of behavior this would render inappropriate is up for debate, but it's irresponsible to pretend that women are not invested in these communities out of necessity.

belledame222 said...

Well, exactly. And also it answers itself: if it's so easy to go out and find your own space, then why are you (i.e. "you" being radfem separatists or whatnot) so very invested in defending this one?

belledame222 said...

--is Lucky the one who likened fellatio unto eating shit? i thought i caught that one before my eyes exploded.

belledame222 said...

--and sure, you're right about the theorists; I mean, I can say, I find a lot that's useful in Eric Fromm, but have trouble with some of his ideas about power, or the way he frames certain other things. Or, I like Reich, I think there's a lot to build on, but there's no question that the man was a product of his times: the stuff is homophobic and full of a lot of sexist assumptions.

I guess there might be *something* I'd relate to if I read enough Jeffries; to me she just sounds like horrible little tinpot demagogue. I mean, the riff on "we think all feminists should be lesbians, by which we mean abstaining from icky men, not necessarily having to have sex with other women."

the fact that Twisty considers this woman her ideological twin or whatever it was, it explains a lot.

the other thing is--as we've been talking about, and thanks to BL's rigorousness with the research (Big Red Book and so forth), it seems like the reason for transfolk being on probationary status at best is built right into the premise of radfem.

i mean, i suppose there could be a way in which one could take it to a sort of Myra Breckinridge conclusion instead; but somehow, it never seems to pan out that way...

piny said...

the other thing is--as we've been talking about, and thanks to BL's rigorousness with the research (Big Red Book and so forth), it seems like the reason for transfolk being on probationary status at best is built right into the premise of radfem.

i mean, i suppose there could be a way in which one could take it to a sort of Myra Breckinridge conclusion instead; but somehow, it never seems to pan out that way...


What do you mean by "Myra Breckinridge" conclusion?

I suppose you're right. It would depend on whether you could see transsexuality as something more complex than "internalized conflict with gender roles." Since most radfems see gender as cultural period full stop, this is not an acceptable premise.

belledame222 said...

actually not Myra Breckrinridge but the sequel, Myron (Gore Vidal, y'know): basically this demented story of a transsexual who's also a split personality or something, totally offensive on any number of levels, I'm sure, which i expect was Vidal's intention. (the latter book, in its original printing, has a smack at the then-SCOTUS' ruling wrt obscene words; basically he just wrote the whole thing substituting the offending judges' names for the naughty words, completely obvious what they meant by context: i.e. "whizzer white"="cunt." )

anyway the Myra character gets sucked back into some forties movie (like I said: demented) and, fed up with homophobic misogynistic macho shithead behavior, decides to initiate a self-started overthrow of the hegemony by first seducing sexy macho shitheels and then performing DIY sex change operations on them. first sodomizing them, of course. the eventual goal to be an iron-fisted all-female (with maybe a handful of studs left over strictly for sexual purposes for those who so desire) monarchy ruled by Her, Myra. it's completely fucked up, works primarily as a cross between satire and some sort of softcore forced-fem/femdom fantasy, basically. it's also the only Gore Vidal book i've ever been able to read more than five pages of, whatever that says about me.

belledame222 said...

oh and Myra's a total elitist snob, of course; part of her goal is to make sure that everyone shares her passion for classic films. sort of Twisty, that, really.

belledame222 said...

anyway I could've just as easily said "Valerie Solanas" or "Hothead Paisan" conclusion, I expect. just basically I think: honey, if you're *that* obsessed and angry about the oppression of the Almighty Penis, then, you know, may as well go hogwild, have fun with it. murder, mayhem, and rampant castration! guns and knives and giant strap-on dildos! much more fun than the endless whinging and petty infighting and hanging "no penii allowed" signs on your minging little clubhouse.

piny said...

Clearly, I need to read that book.

i mean, i suppose there could be a way in which one could take it to a sort of Myra Breckinridge conclusion instead; but somehow, it never seems to pan out that way...

I think that this is because transition involves "men" getting involved/included in the people of woman, and because it was something that "men" came up with. Radical feminists do argue--when they're not busy arguing the skinsuit stereotype--that "men" become women because they just can't bear to be evil oppressors under patriarchy any more.

belledame222 said...

...come to think of it, the Myron scenario also sounds like it was maybe the template for Janice Raymond's pile o'tripe. "the Evil MTF Empire is coming! run! Run for your lives!..."

hey, if you're the sort of person who apparently believes yer average porn flick is, as R Mildred put it, "like a documentary and shit," then I suppose it's possible...

belledame222 said...

>that "men" become women because they just can't bear to be evil oppressors under patriarchy any more.

:eyeroll:

apparently, some people emerged from the womb spouting theory. it must be nice to be so evolved and free of any sort of unconscious, pre-verbal instincts.

piny said...

apparently, some people emerged from the womb spouting theory. it must be nice to be so evolved and free of any sort of unconscious, pre-verbal instincts.

It's even better when it's posited in combination with the skinsuit stereotype. Hate too much or love too much, nothing in between.

Well, I wonder what'll happen if and when they discover some biological basis for transsexuality (fetal hormone exposure or something). I doubt it'll change anything.

piny said...

anyway I could've just as easily said "Valerie Solanas" or "Hothead Paisan" conclusion, I expect. just basically I think: honey, if you're *that* obsessed and angry about the oppression of the Almighty Penis, then, you know, may as well go hogwild, have fun with it. murder, mayhem, and rampant castration! guns and knives and giant strap-on dildos! much more fun than the endless whinging and petty infighting and hanging "no penii allowed" signs on your minging little clubhouse.

Well, the central argument is that this is not about "men" or hating "men" or hurting "men," but it usually does seem to involve excluding "men" or demeaning "men" or perpetuating language that perpetuates status-crime status that gets these "men" killed. It's like if they're not going Hothead, they can't be said to really be hurting people.

belledame222 said...

Which is where this dovetails back into my suspicion that a goodly chunk of this is all about "butbutbut women *are* better, somehow, o.k. not in any biologically determined sort of way, (probably), but...we're not the violent ones! We're not the murderers! We're not the rapists! That's gotta mean *something.* Doesn't it?"

my thing, always: "isn't so" doesn't mean "couldn't be so."

piny said...

Which is where this dovetails back into my suspicion that a goodly chunk of this is all about "butbutbut women *are* better, somehow, o.k. not in any biologically determined sort of way, (probably), but...we're not the violent ones! We're not the murderers! We're not the rapists! That's gotta mean *something.* Doesn't it?"

Right. The twisted part is that they end up having to deny sexism as it actually functions in the lives of transwomen--insidiously--in order to insist on how they'd like it to function for class women. I've actually seen Heart argue, I shit you not, that transwomen are treated _better_ when they're out as transwomen rather than perceived as women.

belledame222 said...

That must be absolutely maddening. I mean, it is.

it's weird; she seems like she's capable of being human and even listening in other regards; but, yes, I expect it is that investment kicking in.

belledame222 said...

btw, piny, would you be up for saying a few autobiographical words in the "But enough about me..." topic?

piny said...

>>btw, piny, would you be up for saying a few autobiographical words in the "But enough about me..." topic?>>

...I was just thinking about that, actually. I'm still trying to figure out where my parents and I are, since they're way left by any standard but mine, and since we both seem to have internalized social conservative shapes if not dynamics (e.g. monogamy, but not sexist labor/power divisions).

piny said...

it's weird; she seems like she's capable of being human and even listening in other regards; but, yes, I expect it is that investment kicking in.

...I read her reception of trans issues as an extension of how she approaches everything else, really. You've seen my rants about feelings. There's another that I haven't published and might never.

belledame222 said...

actually I'm not sure which rants you're referring to. You don't mean the one where you took her on for her transphobia fairly recently, do you?

piny said...

actually I'm not sure which rants you're referring to. You don't mean the one where you took her on for her transphobia fairly recently, do you?

That and the one about the apologies.

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