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.
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.