Are Radical Feminists Happy?

I hesitate to ask that question because “insufferable, miserable bitch” pretty much goes hand in hand with “feminist” in the popular culture and I hate to add to it.  But I see these radical feminists running around the internet killing joy wherever they see it and I just have to wonder.

In a way, it reminds me of that saying–To the person who has only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Ugh.

Let’s try this from another direction.

I’ve been reading Renegade Evolution for a while now.  She’s one of the toughest blogs for me to read, personally, because so much of what she says fundimentally challenges my ideas about what it means to be a feminist and what it means to be sex positive and what it means to feel powerful.  I think I benefit from reading her a great deal, but I read her and am always just “No, no, no, no, no.  La la la.  I can’t hear you.”  Which, I think, means that she’s someone I really need to hear from and consider.  So, I try to honor that.  I read and consider.  But I don’t comment over there because I feel like my objections to what she’s saying are based in how challenged I feel by her perspective, not by their validity.  At this point, arguing with her would be about my desire to remain unmoved and unchanged by what she says and I believe being unmoved and unchanged are not valid goals.  Does that make sense?

Anyway, I bring her up because she’s had it with feminism

Okay, let that stitch hang for just a second.

Over at Alas, they’re still debating the hilarious cartoon Amp drew the other day.  A certain set of radical feminists believes that his comparing them to certain conservative Christians is misogynistic.  Unless they believe that any man daring to critique a woman is inherently misogynist, I’m afraid I don’t understand their position.

And I, like Mandolin, often don’t recognize myself in the online rad fem defintion of “woman,” let alone feminist.  The rad fem strategy seems to be to have a framework through which to view the world and to force that framework to… um… frame (ha, if I had an editor, she could smooth that mess out) whatever it is they’re looking at.  If you read some of the comments in the threads Mandolin links to, you can see some women grateful to have a way to view the world.

And, you know, I guess I don’t get that.  Again, I want to come back to ethical pleasure–feeling good and doing things that make you happy that don’t hurt others.  Why aren’t we advocating that women do things that feel good to them?

See, I consider this to be radical, in a different sense of the word, of course.  But to me, the notion that women should be encouraged to actively take part in the world (do things), and not passively wait for the world to happen to them, in a way they find pleasurable (meaning that women would have to figure out for themselves what felt good for them and seek it) and being attentive to it not hurting others (taking up space in the world and being aware of what taking up that space means) is radical.

Changing women’s thinking so that we, ourselves, decide our own destinies is radical.  But how can we know if we’re on the right track?  None of us can really imagine what it will be like when women are not so fucked up anymore.  We can’t set goals or use theoretical framework because we don’t know where it is we’re going.

Say that we were all fish and some of us had a dream to get onto dry land.  We might have, by leaping out of the water, some ideas about what we’ll need to get there and what we’ll need when we get there.  But we’ve never been on dry land before.  We can’t say for sure that what we need to get there is the same as what we’ll need when we’re there.

We have to be able to be flexible and to plan for a future we cannot wholly envision.

That, to me, is where pleasure comes in.  Pleasure doesn’t require having a known goal.  It’s a way to guide you.

With that in mind, I don’t know why we can’t say that, just as it brings some women, like Renegade Evolution, great pleasure to dance naked in front of folks, it brings other women great pleasure to find dancing naken in front of folks very silly.  And both groups would go on their ways doing and believing the things that bring them pleasure and acting on that pleasure in ways that don’t hurt others.

That, to me, seems very powerful.

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49 thoughts on “Are Radical Feminists Happy?

  1. “Are radical feminists happy?”

    Not in my experience.

    That said, most radical anythings are pretty unhappy, since being a radical something almost always means that:

    1) You are well outside of the mainstream
    2) You want the mainstream to see things your way/come around to your way of thinking/come toward you and
    3) despite what you think are your best efforts, the mainstream never does any of these things, meaning that you remain marginalized and increasingly frustrated, and the vicous cycle begins, meaning that unhappiness will ever be your lot.

    Not to say there aren’t some happy radicals. I’ve run across some. Their secret: they live their own lives and don’t expect to bend the will of the majority.

  2. “Are Radical Feminists Happy?”

    My first thought is, “Well, yeah, of course!”

    How could a radical feminist not be happy? Running your own life on your own terms while simply not bothering with society’s dumber dictates is FUN. Shrug off the deadweight, take on the liberty of mind, and whammo — life becomes a parade of pleasures not available to those drowning under the quiet desperation.

    Sure, there are some battles to be fought, but those battles are there anyway. Calling them what they are makes it a lot easier to charge merrily in, sword waving, and party happily afterward, rather than drowning in angst and cognitive dissonance. –Again, about 20 times more fun.

  3. […] to have a framework through which to view the world and to force that framework to… um… frame (ha, if I had an editor, she could smooth that mess out) whatever it is they’re looking at.

    “Encompass” “Explain” “Fit” “Describe” “Map” “Understand”

    Not touching the rest right now… nosiree….

  4. See, Helen, again, maybe we need two terms. Because you talk and I’m all like, hell yes, count me in. And I read Twisty and I laugh and think that I’d like to share a beer with her some day.

    But then I read other folks like this heart person and her folks and they’re all talking about how mtf transsexuals somehow aren’t a feminist concern (well, except as they are men who are exerting male privilege by refusing to believe that there’s any place they can’t go–even into the bodies of women)–and I take to heart Renegade Evolution’s point that when you throw out terms like sexbot or whatever, there are real women those words attach to, and… Well, and I’m not being very clear because I’m trying to make a large point in a small space.

    What I want to know is what’s to gain out of that approach?

    And maybe it’s wrong to call that a radical feminist approach, but that seems to be how they’re identifying themselves.

  5. I’m not sure I’m getting what you’re saying, but I think I’m closer. In any form of a-fightin’ for freedom, there are options for fighting the good fight with cheer and joie de vivre, and choices for fighting under a black cloud of gloom and doom, and a whole lot of other choices besides. You can see these patterns in any group striving for some form of social justice.

    I like the fun ones, myself, not just because they’re fun, but because I think they’re wise — without the good cheer, we’ll wear ourselves out instead of bringing our best strengths to the fight. AAAAAAND what we want is a better life for all, right? So let’s get to it and have one!

  6. Rather like in your other ‘two-term’ thread, I’d suggest ‘rational’ and ‘irrational,’ or possibly ‘reasonable’ and ‘unreasonable’ … though I think we might disagree on who to put in which categories.

    The theory I’m trying to put together (for some posts and/or my application to Long Shot University) is one that tries to pull in the two competing understandings of ‘what we online activist-y/thinking-y people are doing here.’ When we have feminist or political or racial conversations, we’re both talking to our friends and engaging in the more formal/theoretical pursuit. Online communities behave an awful lot like geographic communities, because at some point, if you want to continue the conversation (or activity, or whatever), you’re stuck with the people you’ve got. You can take your toys and go home, and that might work to save your sanity/free-time/self-respect, but it won’t usually allow you to continue doing what you were doing, because there aren’t that many of us who are interested in this subject, using this medium and format, speaking this language with this level of complexity.

    However, it’s also true that online communities are communities of affinity, in the true Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” sense of the term. You chose to be here, within certain parameters that don’t bear explaining right here, and what you’re doing is sharing opinions and knowledge and theory. Because this is also true, you get a lot of the early-phase blogwar stuff “But I was just saying what I thought! Why are you getting mad at me? Why are you stomping off in a huff because you thought I was an ‘ally,’ whatever that means?”

    To bring it back to the conversation at hand (whose merits I’m still not touching), the problem seems to be that the theory and the community don’t match up very well. RadFem theory can be engaged and dealt with, like everything else; it’s easy enough to say “I agree with you on this, I can go this far with you, but I can’t credit that assumption or agree with this point.” But, since there is also a community that has grown up around those thoughts and theories, and that community has a past, and dynamics like every other community, it also has a culture and a hierarchy. When a person talks, they’re taking into account the theory, sure, and their lived experience and whatnot… but they’re also responding to the e-mail they got this morning, the blogwar they had last week, the person that teased them when they were little using a certain set of words.

    And there are people for whom that experience isn’t really consciously coming into play, or people who haven’t been in those particular blogwars or gotten called those names, and aren’t responding to the same things. Those people generally seem to characterize themselves as ‘just having a conversation,’ and get upset at being tarred with the ‘community’ brush. Which is unfair, yes… but not always wrong.

    Take, for instance, a feminist’s annoyance with the 50th person to ask a well-meant but cluelessly dismissive and 101 question – “But don’t you like to be objectified?” “I’m a nice guy! Why are you attacking meeeee?. When you’ve had this conversation enough, you wind up snippier than you might otherwise be. Especially if you know that getting the person to understand you is likely to require time, effort, and emotional investment beyond what you have to give. That’s what a lot of the anger sounds like to me when a newcomer or ‘I’m just having a conversation’ person comes into the radfem/sexpos/trans conversation… you might be perfectly well-meaning, but you’re triggering a helluva lot of bad stuff that went before, and even if a person slows down to try to break it down for you gently, you’re likely to react with anger because it’s a fucking long and complicated argument. No matter which ‘side’ you’re on.

    So… yeah. I think my two words work, because you’ve got the people who can deal with those dynamics on the one hand (even if they don’t like them or aren’t consciously aware of them), and then you’ve got the people on the other side who can’t – the ones for whom every argument is the same argument, and they’re so stuck in their context that they can’t separate the theory from the community from their personal issues any more. Reasonable and unreasonable.

  7. I’m gonna go with the idea that some radicals (of any ideology) have been radicalized by experiences so painful that a lot of their joy has been destroyed. And those radicals are not happy people, most of the time. But many other radicals have come to radicalism by other means, or have such natural resilience that the painful experiences didn’t dent their joy permanently. These radicals are going to be happy. (In this context I always think of Tony Hiss’s description of his father as happy when he worked for the gov’t, happy while he was on trial, and a happy prisoner. Obviously, to the extent that he was a spy, he was a happy spy as well.)

    I’m noticing that angry people shout a lot louder than happy ones, though.

  8. i don’t think it’s the radicality that does it. my experience with really gutsy advocates who know they are going up against impossible odds is that they can be the most fun of them all.

    heart in particular is committed to a victim status as proof of her moral superiority. WOC are oppressing rad fems, gay men are oppressing rad fems, lesbians who enjoy SM are oppressing rad fems, MOC are oppressing rad fems, sex workers are oppressing rad fems, transgender women are oppressing rad fems, transgender men are oppressing rad fems…

    The list continues. What isn’t separated is injury from status. Someone might hurt me, but still be socially disadvantaged over all. If i get robbed by a rad fem, i still have my dudely privilege to help me recover. And most of us have conflicted status…a mix of privileges and disadvantages. But as long as their bet for moral power is on coming out dead last in the power calculation…they won’t own up to the pwoer they do have. Disgusing that takes effort…mostly the kind of flailing we’ve come to know and love like this mess.

  9. I am happy as the proverbial clam.

    Happy with the direction radical feminism has gone? HAH!

    Two different things!

    My first visit here, glad to meetcha folks!

  10. I dunno about happiness, but I see a lot of bitterness and very angry language being thrown around by self-identified online radfems.

    On the other hand, I know radfems in real life who don’t fit any of those descriptors. I’m beginning to think that a minority of very vocal online radfems is ruining radical feminism for a lot of other people, people who could actually benefit from it.

  11. “I dunno about happiness, but I see a lot of bitterness and very angry language being thrown around by self-identified online radfems.”

    Well yeah, and I might be one of them. There’s a lot to be angry and bitter about. Let’s say you had to endure one hour of my life for the last couple of weeks — just one hour of mindbending physical pain inflicted because, hey, it’s okay to batter a stranger who looks like you do so long as the batterer is a dudely white male feeling uppity. Just one hour walking in my shoes, and I don’t doubt we’d hear some really bitter and angry language out of you.

    That doesn’t change the fact that the people around me see me as a really upbeat and happy person. It doesn’t change the fact that happy is how I feel most of the time. Are you saying that if you have ever said something really angry-sounding, that brands you for life as unhappy?

  12. Aw, Helen, I’m not clear. The point I was trying to make is that, though we’re all going to make mistakes and hurt people inadvertently, I don’t see the benefit in trying to hurt people deliberately and some of the stances that get passed off as “radical feminist” seem to me to be about hurting people deliberately–not out of retaliation (which I can understand)–but just because. That’s what I don’t get.

    I mean, I think that there’s a fine line. I think that why Twisty works so well for me is that I get that she’s trying to jar me (me being the generic reader) out of my conventional thinking, if even momentarily. But that’s a talent–to be able to jar people like that without hurting them or others. And I think that other folks, who don’t have that talent, resort to “Well, I’m hurting you for your own good.” I don’t like that.

    Mag, I love that you always challenge me and give me so much to mull over. And I get what you’re saying about those kinds of group dynamics. I think that’s one of the things that we’re fairly good about here–in part thanks to a core group of commenters that includes, of course, you and nm, who are always asking that another perspective be taken into account: I think we end up having a little more patience for the folks who are new to the discussions (though that could be offset by the fact that we’re not very patient with people who aren’t smart and playful). But then, this place isn’t like other places. I know it doesn’t feel “safe” for people in the same way other places do. So, clearly there are some trade-offs.

    Sly, glad to have you. And yes, exactly, that tendency to equate victim status with moral superiority–that’s a facet I hadn’t been able to articulate. That makes me wonder if there’s not some element of pleasure there, then–“I win. I’m the biggest victim. I’m morally superior.” That feeling of winning might be pleasurable. I don’t know. Again, I’m just not sure I understand it.

    Daisy, glad to have you.

    Kactus, you’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of what I’m beginning to wonder. I, too, know radical feminists off-line and they do seem to be having a grand time, so maybe it is just this small but vocal group that is skewing my perception.

  13. Helen, no, I would draw a line between justifiably enraged and “bitter and unhappy.” I don’t want to speak for others, but I think there’s a line–and again, this is what I’m struggling with figuring out for myself–between being justifiably angry (which to me is going to be a result of being an active, whole person who takes up space in the world) and being bitter and unhappy (which seems to be a result of just passively accepting that you aren’t whole and that you won’t be allowed to take up space in the world).

    They seem similar, but one seems to me to lead to the things I hope feminism will bring about (active, wholeness and pleasurable taking up space) and the other does not.

  14. Pingback: Heart Rate » Sly Civilian

  15. I see. :) I read Twisty for the same reason — she’s good for provoking sheer, “wha—huh??? Oh, wait, well maybe…” I like having my brain stretched. More funfunfun.

  16. Mag, I love that you always challenge me and give me so much to mull over. And I get what you’re saying about those kinds of group dynamics. I think that’s one of the things that we’re fairly good about here–in part thanks to a core group of commenters that includes, of course, you and nm, who are always asking that another perspective be taken into account: I think we end up having a little more patience for the folks who are new to the discussions (though that could be offset by the fact that we’re not very patient with people who aren’t smart and playful). But then, this place isn’t like other places. I know it doesn’t feel “safe” for people in the same way other places do. So, clearly there are some trade-offs.

    My pleasure, Aunt B. Heh, I should be thanking you, ’cause you always present stuff I want to engage, rather than just “hey, I should write about that sometime.” *grins*

    But I think it’s interesting to see the way this is playing out even here. Just going back a little bit to the last blogspat I was active in, I can see where Kactus is writing from… I remember a lot of that. And I can see that Helen, though well-meaning and engaging in the topic at hand, doesn’t know that history. Which doesn’t make her response bad or less valid, but… less on point than I think would be appropriate to who-Kactus-is-and-what-I-read-her-as-saying-given-what-I-know-of-her-history-and-how-some-self-(and-other-)identified-radfems-have-treated-her-and-others-in-her-circle.

    You have a history of some people being loud vicious asses, drowing out other voices… and when that gets mentioned, you have the other reaction (which I find myself doing a lot) of “but that’s not me. Why are you using my identity marker to make that point?”

    And I don’t think that really has much to do with the content of the radfem set, or the virtue of those not in it. I don’t think it has much to do with the theory (though I do think that much of what I’ve seen that has been articulated as radfem theory has been of a type that I think is particularly vulnerable to this type of extremism)… but I do think it has a lot to do with the history of the groups in question, and that for whatever reason, a lot of people who call themselves radfems have been (to my mind) inconcievably nasty to people that don’t really deserve it. And that the people that they have engaged that way have reacted with about the same vehemence, often enough that it’s caused this sort of.. cultural calcification. The words for the discussion have been stolen from us. They’re just… someone will say “angry” and it’ll touch off this argument, and someone will say “blow job” and it’ll touch off that one, and then it’s all sexbots and prudes and men-in-dresses and gender essentialism all over again, because those are the words that were used in that conversation… no matter how valid they are or were or will be.

  17. Mag, today is the day you should write any scholarly essays you might need to write, because you are on. Damn. This idea of “cultural calcification” is so important to the larger issue of how we talk to each other and what we hope to get out of it. And I like it because it makes me think of something spiny and spikey, so that it’s not just that the people in the conversation are frozen in some stalemate, but that the people who, from the outside, are trying to figure out what’s going on can end up getting hurt, too.

    So, then, it seems to me that we have a couple of problems. One is that, since the community is not set, there will always be newcomers who don’t know terms or theory or real-world examples. And there will always be those folks who were newcomers but who now want to test their understandings of things and who do want to stretch their wings and duke it out a little. And there will be folks who get tired of fighting. That seems to me to just be the nature of the beast. There’s really a way in which a lot of discussion must, by virtue of the medium, be wheel-spinning.

    The question then becomes “What will the other part of the discussion look like?” (I guess that’s “two” in my list of problem). What will folks who want to move beyond the wheel-spinning talk about and how will that work?

  18. Sly Civilian:

    committed to a victim status as proof of … moral superiority. [snip]

    What isn’t separated is injury from status.

    Yes, that’s the kind of mindset I see in some of those who are radicals because they’ve been hurt. I try to make allowances for the hurt, but in politics as in life, I thing people are better off not letting it define them. This is a much more clear-headed formulation of what I meant.

  19. Helen, I started off my comment saying “I dunno about happiness.”

    I really don’t. I can’t measure somebody else’s happiness, all I can do is see how they act. I also adamantly do not discount anybody’s real life pain or suffering. That is not even open to dismissal, because it is too important.

    My point is that there is a subset of online radical feminists who seem to have decided that their pain or victimhood or wombiness gives them the right to not only make judgement calls on other feminists, but also say adamantly who is or is not feminist, and even who is or who is not a woman. I’ve seen many times that when a radfem disagrees with another feminist one of the first insults she hurls is to wonder whether or not the feminist she’s engaging with is actually a man, or “male identified,” thus calling the entire validity of the debate into question.

    The examples of some radical feminists calling transpeople monsters, buffalo bills, child molesters, potential rapists, insane, candidates for strait jackets, are very, very extreme. I don’t think they are representative of radical feminism as a whole–and yet those same people, with their same verbal visciousness, aren’t called out or shunned by radfems like Heart, who tries to set herself up as the perfect, reasonable radfem. In fact, she embraces them and makes sure that everybody knows she considers them the raddiest of the rad. Their transhatred (it goes beyond phobia) is ignored, or reasoned away, or justified, because they’re sisters, after all, and womb-possessing, and kindred spirits.

    This is what I’m talking about, Helen. And as for anger…well, I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to do with your anger and your pain. All I can do is say that I believe you, I believe all women when they relate the abuses they’ve suffered in this patriarchy, because I’m a woman living in it too. I also believe my trans brothers and sisters who have been abused, and my queer brothers and sisters. I know this in my heart because I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it myself.

    What angers me about these particular online radfems, however, it that they have set their own personal suffering up on such a high, pure-alabaster pedestal, that anybody who questions it risks being booted out of this thing called feminism, and possibly even womanhood itself.

    And with this, I am going to the library. I have an urge to reread “This Bridge Called my Back” and get offline for a while.

  20. I do think of myself as radically feminist, although for the life of me I can’t relate to the shorthand “radfem,” as I am from L.A. and it just makes me think of the valley and “that’s rad!” and “you are rad because you are a fem,” and then I’m done with it. Anyhoo, I come from a long line of windbags, fair warning. Point is, misogyny/racism/poverty/suffering/violence are not happy-making phenomena, and they are ever present whether one deals with them or not, and what radical means to me is the willingness, or the internal imperative, to risk caring about what is heart-crushing in this world in every one of its incarnations. In that sense, I find nothing radical about being against misogyny but insistently dismissive of racism, for one example. And, I find nothing radical about misery-as-moral-shield, as Sly Civilian talks about. I think having a sense of humor regardless of horribleness is radical. I think insisting that accountability is valid on all sides is radical. As in, it is not my job to prove to so-and-so that feminists/feminism isn’t about harshing your mellow and clamping down on the world with prude-ish-ness. Grown ups can differentiate between jackassery and ambassadorship, I should hope. And it IS my responsibility to behave with empathetic integrity no matter what anyone else is doing, no matter what I think of it, and to not ever feel entitled to dismiss someone else’s humanity because of their inhumane behavior. Why is it too much to ask that people – especially smart, complex people – recognize and tag assholes rather than resistance itself? That’s why I have trouble engaging with the radical-feminists-are-mean-to-me-so-I-have-stopped-trusting-women viewpoints I’ve sometimes seen expressed. Some jerks were jerky to you, and that’s fucked up, and I hear a lot of people confronting that. If it’s man-hating to say “a lot of men have hurt me (they have) and so I think men are untrustworthy and mean”, why isn’t it questionable when someone says similarly stereotyping things about radical feminists? And I DO think it’s anti-male to dismiss all men, to stop expecting good things from men, to ignore the amazing things that men already do and are in this world, no matter how many of them may individually be dicks. (I don’t think discussing male privilege, though, like white privilege, is stereotyping of said groups.)

    So. I no more like the cranky fucks who claim radical feminism as their launching pad for cranky fuckedness than anti-feminists do. They do not get a pass. I see them not getting a pass all over the blogs I read, especially on blogs written by women of color.

    I know this post asked whether radical feminists are happy, and then I went on about something I’m not happy about, ahem. I’m definitely happier to know and hear from other radical feminists, particularly those women whose blogs I’m addicted to, and I know that I prioritize joy over melodrama. I don’t know what it means for a group of people to be more or less happy than another anyway, which I don’t say to be a smartass, just really that it’s a puzzler to me.

    Thank you for this post and all the comments, I have really appreciated all.

  21. P.S. Kactus – I hadn’t read your last comment before mine posted. I want to say that my experience is different than yours, in seeing people claim radical feminism and then remain unchallenged when they act with hatred under that banner. Which is to say, fuck, I am so sorry you have had that experience, and I believe you, and it’s not okay. And I don’t blame you for being pissed about it, and I’m glad you are talking about it.

  22. This has turned out to be a really good discussion. I feel like I have a lot to think about. And I’m glad for all of y’all’s participation. Joan, you’ve hit on another facet of this that annoys me, too–the whole “I hate your asshole behavior, so I hate women now (or feminists or whatever).” When I talked about my having a hard time reading Renegade Evolution and not feeling defensive, I meant her rejection of feminism just because she doesn’t like some feminists. I still feel, though, an obligation–not to her, but to myself, in order to understand my own position–to try to genuinely hear where she’s coming from.

    And, in retrospect, I think that asking if radical feminists are happy is an unfair and loaded question on my part (though I would have paid money to be a part of a conversation like this, so I’m glad I asked it), but I come back to my belief that what makes feminism(s) important is that believing in the inherent worth and equality of everyone shifts paradigms. It radically changes people’s lives for the better. It is good and important work.

    It’s pleasurable.

    Again, we want to go someplace different than this place. We don’t know–because we can’t get completely outside of our own biases and ingrained expectations–exactly what that place will look like. If we don’t know exactly where we’re going or what it will look like when we get there, we need some kind of internal compass to guide us (which, I believe is doing things that bring us pleasure and don’t deliberately hurt others).

    I guess, what it comes down to, is that I can respect and understand a lot of folks and support them in what they do, even if it’s not my thing, if they seem guided by joy (even if they’re often angry or sad or frustrated or scared). I can respect and respond to that.

    I don’t know how to respond to people who act from a position only of anger or fear. And I don’t quite understand why other people would.

  23. Oh, come on, B. You’d get it if a dog was acting “from a position only of anger or fear.” Is it that hard to imagine what it would take to get a person to live in that place? There’s a lot of being sunny-natured or sullen, easily rebounding from disaster or being overset by the least setback, being even-tempered or hot-tempered, painfully shy or compulsively gregarious, etc., etc. that seems to be inborn as far as anyone can tell. But there are also elements that come from lived experience. And some people’s experiences have genuinely been lousy.

    And, if you have the patience, you respond to those people the same way you would to a snapping dog: with confidence and gentleness. It works better with dogs, of course, but it works for humans too.

  24. “The examples of some radical feminists calling transpeople monsters, buffalo bills, child molesters, potential rapists, insane, candidates for strait jackets, are very, very extreme. I don’t think they are representative of radical feminism as a whole–and yet those same people, with their same verbal visciousness, aren’t called out or shunned by radfems like Heart, who tries to set herself up as the perfect, reasonable radfem. In fact, she embraces them and makes sure that everybody knows she considers them the raddiest of the rad. Their transhatred (it goes beyond phobia) is ignored, or reasoned away, or justified, because they’re sisters, after all, and womb-possessing, and kindred spirits.”

    Whoa. I did a quick read of some of Heart’s posts to get an idea of who we were talking about, but I didn’t catch any of that. If there really are people claiming to be radfem out there who talk this way and behave as you’re describing, thanks for letting me know. I had no idea.

    And like all y’all, I can’t imagine what good it does. Can’t we all just have a beer?

  25. Whoa. I did a quick read of some of Heart’s posts to get an idea of who we were talking about, but I didn’t catch any of that. If there really are people claiming to be radfem out there who talk this way and behave as you’re describing, thanks for letting me know. I had no idea.

    Ohhh, yes. These people certainly do exist, though most of them have quieted down a lot. Were you around for the, ah, blowup that spun Little Light into popularity? (Not that she wasn’t popular before, but the one that really cemented her status as a Person To Read) That, and the ensuing aftershocks, is what comes to mind for me when I read about the radfem/transphobia (okay, any radfem vs. group-I’m-rather-fond-of debate) thing.

    I’m trying not to get distracted (and this thread has turned out engrossing and not yelly, so I suppose I can discard more of my ‘not discussing the major content of this thing’ bit), so this list will probably be incomplete (I’m trying to take Aunt B’s advice and actually write my essays!)… but here are some things to look at:

    Heart accusing Little Light of plagiarism (the commentary is mostly supportive,… at least the first hundred comments or so… it being LL’s place and not Heart’s that I linked to… but it contains references to all, or nearly all, of the mentioned incidents.)

    … actually, now that I think about it, the crazy that goes on toward the middle/end of that comment thread should be more than enough demonstration. I could probably find more, but.. yeah. And that’s only the trans-related stuff. There’s plenty of sex-wars and race-wars issues to be had with her, specifically, and her ilk.

    That said, I don’t think she’s representative of the majority at all. I think she’s very popular because she’s very loud, and that she has a small-but-not-insignificant cult of personality grown up around her, buoyed by a much larger group that likes the theory and doesn’t care about (or doesn’t know about) the excesses to which it is taken and her awful behavior on other people’s blogs.

    And we’re back to the community/theory thing again. Because even though I wasn’t involved in any of the spats involving her (most were ‘before my time,’ active-blogging-wise, and I stayed far away from the others, seeing the fallout), when her name comes up, or people mention these types of arguments (the extreme ones, not the mainstream theory ones), that’s what comes to mind. And when people circle the wagons saying “nobody would argue something so stupid/vile/bigoted, you’re just attacking a strawperson,” I have a hard time crediting that because I’ve seen it.

    And, I think, more importantly, I know quite a few people (I’d say 2/3 of the commenters on the LL thread are people I consider my online friends) who have been on the recieving end of that kind of bile. So while I can say “yeah, you specifically aren’t doing any of these things, and I get that,” it takes me a lot longer to go “so maybe this group/theory/thought isn’t so bad” … because the people that have been the loudest, the people who have been the most persistent, the people who were my first and worst experiences with those types of ideologies have been the ones that would follow you through a comment made on a tracked-back blog and proceed to spam you for days about how you were a bigot. They were the people that would call up the specter of something someone had said months ago as a pretense to not just derail your thread, but to derail the threads of everyone you were talking with at the same time over something that didn’t have anything to do with the current offense. And I know they’re the minority. I get that. But I’m afraid to even participate in civil discussions like this, for fear that one of the others will find me and follow me and not leave me alone.

    And I think that’s a community problem, because some of these people (like Heart) are relatively well-respected (300 – 400+ comment threads heavily moderated to avoid dissent indicate to me that there is a not-insignificant population of people who at least tolerate her or agree with her in part, and the degree-of-magnitude jumps in commentary on people who engage with her indicate to me that of those, there is a small-but-vocal group of people who are committed to what they see as defending her or her positions, and who are willing to go to extreme lengths to argue.. which may not translate into group-wide respect, but given the percentages and the populations, speaks to a non-trivial degree of support). And those people have platforms, and those platforms have power. They have the power to silence. To force people offline. (I can’t find that link… Kactus, do you know who I’m talking about? I wish I remembered who it was in that argument…) To derail good conversations. And if they’re not challenged (out of fear, or ignorance, or apathy …), then even if you don’t actually agree with them, they are usurping that voice.

  26. Gah! Dammit!

    Akismet ate that last one. And stupid me, I didn’t save it elsewhere before posting. Here’s to hoping that it just tossed it in the mod-list and didn’t really-seriously eat it like the other really long ones.

    So much for not getting distracted.

  27. But just in case.. if you aren’t aware of the things Kactus pointed out, see this thread at Little Light’s (Heart stuff aftermath), all of, this stuff (Twisty transphobia thread stuff), the “WOC Morping into The Oppressor” stuff (Heart and CM decide that women of color are the real oppressors of all things white and feminist).

    *copies* pastes into Word*

    There. Akismet is going to eat this too, because it’s linky.. but it’s short so it’ll likely just get flagged and not discarded.

  28. Yay, thanks! There’s now another of mine waiting for you, with about… eight links. Heh.

  29. Just to bring this back full circle to Amp’s cartoon, then, I must say that I’ve witnessed exactly what you’re talking about, too, Mag. And, based on my own upbringing (for those of you who are stopping by for the first time, my dad is a Methodist minister, but I’ve left the church and am now a hopeful polytheist ancestor-botherer), that tendency–to believe that you get not just a say, but a final say in what someone else does, especially if you can rally a large enough group of folks behind you to help you–seems to me to come directly from the ugliest tendencies of Christians, especially if you pass it off as being somehow “for their own good” or “for the good of the group.” And so, again, I see similar strategies between certain types of radical feminists and certain types of Christians.

    I guess I see it as adherence to dogma versus … I don’t know, something powerful and compassionate and open.

    Ha, now I think that’s what you were getting at comments ago, with your rational/irrational split. Who’s thinking stuff through and who’s strictly adhering to the rules.

    NM, yeah, intellectually I know that. But my heart can’t fathom it.

  30. Pingback: What are we doing here? « Feline Formal Shorts

  31. Wow, another addendum –

    Thank you even more times, Aunt B., for this thread, as I got to read posts by Little Light and BFP that I hadn’t seen before (I got to the part of the blogosphere I love around Memorial Day this year), and it made me even more head over heels for two women writers I was already head over heels for.

    Made me want to say also – I’m unfamiliar with Heart and CM, and the only anti-transwomen posts/comments I’ve seen online so far by people claiming to be radical feminists were on a forum about the Michigan Womyn’s Festival. Not that the whole argument I saw on there was anti-transwomen, but that some people did clearly seem to feel free to be hateful under cover of those threads. I just felt like, yeah, assholes in every group, that sucks, isn’t helpful to the discussion.

    Now I feel like, yes, I still see people as individually accountable for what they say, and not getting to represent a whole movement or group or whatever…but, whoa, what the fuck is up anyway with the hating-on-transpeople stuff? And although racism among white feminists is not news to me, the particular strain of it that BFP mentions in the post you linked to is a punch to the gut of sanity.

    So – to anyone I have even peripherally responded to with my previous “damn, stop calling all us radical feminists transphobic, sex-hating lunatics” – the fact that I didn’t know this shit was going on is no longer relevant, as I do know, now. I can use a little of my *own* powers of observation to recognize that, while, okay, I can think of one or two people who seem to want to run for most-maligned-victim-of-radfems, there is a difference between that kind of behavior and those who are confronting truly grotesque patterns among some vocal self-identified radical feminists. For some reason it has been easier for me to hear and care about what women of color run into from white feminists, without ever feeling personally attacked/maligned. Or, when discussion of racist behavior/attitudes/speech applies to me, not feeling like it’s untrue or unfair, but feeling like whew, another respite from ignorance. With the “radical feminists are…” thing, I have had a hard time not making it about me. I still have a stubborn idealism about believing there can be feminisms that do not include a fuck-you clause to any other potential or actual group, and in my head I’m like, “just because I put on a bear suit doesn’t make me a grizzly, so just because some jerk claims to be feminist doesn’t mean that’s in fact what she/he is.” But if I went around attacking people with my fake bear paws, I would understand some people’s confusion/aversion.

  32. I can be described as a “radical feminist.”
    Groovy.
    But I just want to be equal.
    Equal in salary.
    Equal in love.
    Equal in life.
    Equal in the way I’m perceived and in benefits.

    I think that’s radical, but I sorta just think that’s being considered the same.
    I just want the same, even though we, men and women, are different. Can we not have similar things, yet be different.
    Probably not.
    Yet I know that’s not really possible.
    Dammit.

  33. Dear Aunt B,

    What is it about RE’s blog that makes you want to yell “lalalala” when you read it?

    Your’s truly,
    Jason

  34. Pingback: Thinking About… » What’s in a name?

  35. Jason, I can see that you’re the kind of person who gets drunk and asks people difficult questions. But okay, let me try to answer you as honestly as I can. I read RE’s blog faithfully and find it incredibly difficult to read because she hits me right where I live and makes me think about difficult things and my own complicity in them.

    So, before I go on, I want to make this as clear as possible–I don’t know RE; she doesn’t know me; my feelings about what she writes are in no way a judgment on the value of what she writes; it’s about me feeling challenged in ways that sometimes upset and confuse me; and challenged in ways that make clear to me that there are things I haven’t given enough thought to and am not careful enough about.

    I hope that’s clear. My reaction to RE’s blog is not some judgment of her other than I find her writing provoking and don’t quite know how to get my mind around the ways in which I feel provoked.

    For instance, it offends me that she doesn’t call herself a feminist. And I’m not sure why, exactly. I mean, part of it is that she’s smart and articulate and making her own way in the world in a way that brings her pleasure and makes her feel powerful and, to me, those are obviously feminist goals. From the outside, she seems like a feminist. I think being a feminist is cool. Why wouldn’t she want to be a feminist?

    On the other hand, I feel like she has legitimate reasons for not being a feminist and I, a person who believes that women must have autonomy in the world, should be able to respect her decision to not identify as feminist without it feeling like an insult.

    That bugs me–that I feel other women’s rejection of the term “feminist” as an insult.

    And I kind of don’t know what to do with that, because I don’t admit it to myself very often and I’m kind of mortified that I’m about to admit it in public.

    I also sometimes feel like kind of an asshole when I read her. She accuses a great many feminists of using terms like “sexbots” and “pornalicious” and other words that reduce women who are willingly and happily in porn, who don’t feel damanged by it or fucked up about it, to idiot tools of the patriarchy. Or maybe worse than that–to the shocktroops of the patriarchy, whose whole job it is is just to embody the standards we “real” women can’t meet.

    See it? How pernacious it is? To talk about women like RE as if they’re not “real” women? It’s intellectually dishonest on a bunch of fronts. For instance, if you believe that The Patriarchy exists, you probably believe that ALL women are making compromises to be able to live in a system that isn’t good for us without being destroyed by it. In that case, since we’re all doing what we can to get by without being destroyed, there’s not a one of us who has any room to look down our noses at RE’s work, as if we’re better than her, because, though we made some choices, we didn’t make those choices.

    In another way, setting women like RE aside as sexbot tools of male pleasure (or whatever) assumes that most women–especially those who are not feminist–are too stupid to make decisions based on what makes them happy but are just complete and total idiots who need guidance.

    But on the other hand, I do think that she views feminism as some kind of structured movement and I just don’t experience it like that. If someone is running around being a jackass and calls herself a feminist, well, I, as a feminist can call her on it or ignore it or whatever, but I can’t kick her out of feminism because there is no structure, no list of who’s in or who’s out, and no Empress of Feminism I can plead my case to.

    I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m being clear or not. I’ll reiterate. I think she’s a valuable addition to my reading list, because she forces me to think about things I otherwise wouldn’t and to confront things about myself I’d rather ignore. But what I’m trying to be honest about is that it’s a difficult process for me, though one I find very valuable.

  36. “I think she’s a valuable addition to my reading list, because she forces me to think about things I otherwise wouldn’t and to confront things about myself I’d rather ignore. But what I’m trying to be honest about is that it’s a difficult process for me, though one I find very valuable.”

    That’s one of the reasons I read your blog.

    Thanks for your reply. I shall resume my lurking now.

  37. Lots to think about on this thread. It’s all crunchy, full of fiber. :D

    We’ve hit the conflation of injury with status. This thread has also made me think about the conflation of words with message.

    Here’s an example of what I mean; this:

    “If you believe that The Patriarchy exists, you probably believe that ALL women are making compromises to be able to live in a system that isn’t good for us without being destroyed by it. In that case, since we’re all doing what we can to get by without being destroyed, there’s not a one of us who has any room to look down our noses at RE’s work, as if we’re better than her, because, though we made some choices, we didn’t make those choices.”

    reminds me of why I read Twisty. At first I went through several rounds of stopping reading her stuff because I was offended by bits of things she said. It wasn’t until I read enough of her material, including several rounds of very explicit statements like the above, that I began to comprehend the message as well as the words. It’s part of the nature of the blogosphere that we all talk in shorthand and tend not to repeat ourselves defining frames of reference. Twisty’s general message of “if you make choices that pander to the patriarchy to help your own survival, I’m all for it, I’m just also for us all learning to recognize what we’re doing and what the consequences may be” is a great one as far as I’m concerned. The words she uses can sound harsh, jarring, acerbic, hostile, but the overall message is one of compassion.

    Reminds me a lot of passages of the New Testament that may be actual sayings of Christ, now that I think of it. But that’s neither here nor there.

    None of us can appeal to all audiences. Many won’t read someone like Twisty because of the jarring words conveying the message. On the other hand, if Twisty bowed to their tastes, I probably wouldn’t read her stuff — she only has so much time and energy to spare, and I’d rather she get her ideas out than spend that energy worrying about pulling her punches. She’s given me cause to think often enough that I’m willing to read for the message through the words.

    That’s why I read this blog too — half the time I can’t tell where a post is going, but there’s been enough thoughts provoked that I keep coming back, reading for the messages through the words.

  38. Mag, thanks for the links. I did go back and surf them somewhat, and it was quite the history lesson.

  39. My pleasure, Helen.

    I think that’s one of the most interesting facets about this particular conversation. Given this thread, and the way things are progressing at Alas, (and some other conversations, but mostly these two), it seems that most of the people I’d put in the ‘reasonable’ camp and self-identify as radical feminists aren’t aware of what the unreasoable outliers (who also self-identify as radical feminists) are doing in their name. And that unawareness tends to taint/skew a lot of conversations that could be otherwise productive – because one side has a history of dealing with crazy people, and the other side doesn’t know those crazy people and wouldn’t agree with them if they did, but they all use the same names.

    I think there’s a way to work through the cofusion… and I know part of it is having the information at hand to point out. I don’t really know what to do from my side of it, though… because I know I’m one of those people who isn’t comfortable with the jarring words, particularly when they come from a person who is rather known for not engaging individually with dissenting commentors. That’s one of the things I admire about Aunt B (and anyone else who can accomplish it)… the ability to sit back and read things that are hard, and then approach them… over and over again. What do you do when the people you should probably be talking to are people you can’t even bear to read?

  40. Magniloquence wrote:
    […]annoyance with the 50th person to ask a well-meant but cluelessly dismissive and 101 question[…]. When you’ve had this conversation enough, you wind up snippier than you might otherwise be. Especially if you know that getting the person to understand you is likely to require time, effort, and emotional investment beyond what you have to give. That’s what a lot of the anger sounds like to me when a newcomer or ‘I’m just having a conversation’ person comes into the […] conversation… you might be perfectly well-meaning, but you’re triggering a helluva lot of bad stuff that went before, and even if a person slows down to try to break it down for you gently, you’re likely to react with anger because it’s a fucking long and complicated argument. No matter which ’side’ you’re on.

    Damn. So well put, and so easily generalized into almost any other subject.

  41. Yeah, I don’t think it’s a question of -happiness.- I think it’s more a question of–well, what’s known in psych as “locus of control.” Obviously if you’re dealing with politics you’re going to be attributing at least some of your tsuris, probably correctly, to external forces (“locus of control.”) The problem comes when you basically erm blame ALL your tsuris on external forces. It’s not “unhappiness” that you’re noting, it’s more an existential position: a kind of stuckness, nihilism, even. and yes, it’s a problem.

  42. I am a radical feminist, and yes, I am happy if I were left alone. However, I am targeted by stalking groups as written about by David Lawson in his book ¨¨Terrorist Stalking in America.¨¨ Putting it mildly, stalking groups are like Puritans trying to force me to ¨¨see things their way¨¨ with force, not with rational argument. Although Lawson doesn´t uncover who pays for stalking groups to exists, it´s obvious they are funded by very wealthy people who work hand in hand with the F.B.I. I say this because at the same time I am stalked, my emails also are disrupted, that is, if I try to expose what is happening to me.

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