Beloved Women, Beloved Earth

When I look around now, in 2015, I do not see the changes I had hoped to see for women in this world or Mother Earth. Our Mother Earth, and all living beings who rely on her, are at risk of extinction.  Men search for other planets – as if  moving there would solve the destruction men are inflicting. Men and their sadomasochism never end.

In Patriarchy,  women are only seen as a resource, a material to exploit. Brave New World and 1984 are upon us. Women scurry about uncertain, but women know: we feel it, we see it, we smell it, we touch it, in our children’s behavior. Women know intuitively that our children’s increasing rates of ADHD, gender dysphoria, autism, porn culture and prostitution; mental illness, violence, and unemployment are all connected. Corporations engineer our food, growing it with pesticides, growing it in nice engineered rows so the chemicals that make it grow can be easily applied.

In Canada and elsewhere colonized Indigenous communities are under siege for their homelands, again. Indigenous ways of life have sustained their cultures for thousands of years. Their cultures are  threatened when their lands are corrupted, maimed, damaged, and forever altered by civilization’s “henchmen-corporations.” This destroys the rights of a land-based culture to survive. The greed of civilization, capitalism and unchecked growth is unceasing and pathological at this point.

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Chipko Movement

Recorded human history is traditionally seen as a record of humans exceeding Nature’s limitations. Growing numbers of us ask: What about learning to live within our human and ecological limits? I know it sounds simple, but this is actually quite controversial.

In 1969 Rachel Carson [1] stood up to the pesticide industries and started the modern day environmental movement. A courageous women, a scientist, and a lesbian; Carson suggested this culture is insane for using chemicals that would inevitably end up in our food supply, water, wildlife, and our bodies. For unveiling this simple truth Carson was vilified, threatened, and harassed. But time would prove that her research, determination, and courage were right – she woke a whole generation to the hazards of using   technology to control nature. Man-made technological and chemical solutions to man-made problems, such as population and distribution of wealth, make matters worse.

Carson’s research, books, and voice were considered “radical.” Her perspective and call to awareness was fueled by the same energy, passion and resignation that drove Mary Daly to distill, ruminate, write, and reveal her understanding of radical feminism. [2] They were both lesbians in a patriarchical world and women in a decidedly patriarchical institution; academia.

Early radical feminist [3] and radical ecological feminist theory critiqued the human arrogance visible in attempts to master and control nature [4] and advanced various strains of environmental schools of thought: conservation, preservation, animals rights, vegan, vegetarian movements and critiques of capitalism and civilization all emerged out of Carson’s work.

Canadian naturalist John Livingston was my introduction to the vocabulary of anti-capitalism and anti-civilization. Livingston’s [5] critique of the anthropocentric and humanistic mindset driving human relationships with nature was grounded in his observations as a naturalist. Livingston was also a broadcaster, testified at The MacKenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, lectured, supervised, graduate students and wrote a number of books that contributed a valuable Canadian critique of capitalism and civilization.

Livingston argued: “Civilization cripples the mind and cripples the heart by offering a humanistic ideology in place of our evolved naturalness or wildness.” [6]

Or as I came to understand, using “ideas” or “ideology” to connect with our true human nature is not an effective strategy for protecting and preserving life. Those ideologies or ideas were after all simply a form of “prosthetic,” filling in for a lost sensibility that resulted from our alienation from nature.

Livingston believed a natural cooperative instinct was at the root of animal and human behaviour. Humans needed to spend more time being in and with nature, rather than dominating her. He argued that our Judeo-Christian belief systems had humans brainwashed into believing we could somehow rise above our nature.

A key theme was the idea that humans are “domesticated.” Our domestication leads us to a reliance on culture and ideology. Ideology is a straitjacket when changes in human behavior are required. For Livingston, cultural ideologies do far more harm to the Earth than human nature and unless we learn to take the “lens” or glasses off, and de-program ourselves, humans are destined to never understand or accept our dependence on Mother Earth.

Without an understanding of and a connection to nature, humans can expect profound distress and malaise to spread steadily and rapidly – a form of psychosis. Kinda like what is happening today. A cloud of psychosis has seemingly taken over human brains, eyes, and ears, and has us submerged in a sea of shock, irrationality, disbelief, and inaction.

Livingston was convinced that when the lens of ideology was removed we could start to understand, shape an ideology that would stop making our species sick – separate from our true human nature.

“All domesticated animals have this piece missing; all of us are prosthetic beings. The animals depend utterly on us. We depend utterly on ideology. My dogs depend on me and whatever I offer them. I depend on what ideological crutch my culture offers me? Ideology is my master.” [7]

Livingston explains further:

“No one in his right mind denies natural selection. But the fuel of it does not need to be competition. He could have used some other principle. However, he didn’t. And here we are with competition and territoriality and said dominance and all the rest of the rubbish we’re fed by mechanistic biology and the Sunday supplements.  Social dominance in gorillas and whales and wolves and elephants? Come on. I have often wondered how Darwin’s argument would have looked had he invoked cooperation, or compliance.   Even more persuasive I would think.” [8]

What if, Livingston asked, we choose the principle of cooperation instead of competition to view humanity’s relationship to nature?

When I left school I left with the question: Would a “paradigm shift” [9] stop the environmental degradation that humans, patriarchal culture, civilization, and unquestioned growth were inflicting on the Earth? Would replacing the principle of competition with cooperation prevent Earth’s and all living beings’ death? Should civilization be dismantled before every living thing is eradicated?

I have recently come to terms with the idea that a new story will not do the trick. We have had fifty years to act, and there has been only more of the same. The only option left now is: Resistance.

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Deep Ecology was coined in 1973 by Arne Naess, a Norwegian who came up  with the concept to address the state of environmental thought and action he was seeing. When naturalists and philosophers looked out at the reality of the 70s and the actions that were taken to address environmental contamination of ecological systems, these remedies usually involved a mechanistic fix. And yet nature, Earth, is not a machine. Human arrogance and shallow thinking around environmental quick and dirty fixes resulted in the emergent blueprint offered by Deep Ecology.

As Naess was struck at how shallow the approaches to the environmental crisis were, he recommended that what humans needed were deep inquiries around humanity’s relationship to nature. Naess saw no hope in the dominant environmentalism’s ability to prevent the collapse of civilization and the death of all living beings. Humanity’s hope lay in implementing Deep Ecology.

The Deep Ecology Platform  [10]

1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: inherent worth, intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.

2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.

4. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

5. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.

6. Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.

7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

Explicit in Deep Ecology is an understanding of the need for a radical paradigm shift in human ideology. Rather than humans seeing themselves as overlord dominators, men would have to put their sadomasochist tendencies aside and adopt a relationship with nature based on intrinsic value, not utilitarianism. There would need to be multi-level interventions to effect change. This shift in attitude would have to be legislated at local, national, and global levels to be successful – to stop the destruction of our Mother Earth.

Deep Ecology put cooperation as the central principle. Ecology is a the science of healthy ecosystems: how all the members of a biotic community work together. Once humans accepted the intimate inter-connectedness and intrinsic value of every living being, we would be part of that biotic community once more.

Climate change, in 2015, is our biggest universal indicator that our Earth is exceeding her limits to growth.   For conscious humans, the signs of our inability to change our path, to shift our operating principle from competition to cooperation has never been so fully obvious – men and their greed.  Profit and power are a seductive addiction and destructive of living communities.

After 25 years of looking for a new story, a new narrative that could address some of the hopes I had for future generations, I found it! But it is not a story – we are long past a story change being of any value. Resistance is our only option.

Deep Green Resistance [11]

1.    Deep Green Resistance recognizes that this culture is insane.
2.    Deep Green Resistance embraces the necessity of political struggle.
3.    Deep Green Resistance must be multilevel.
4.    Deep Green Resistance requires repair of the planet.
5.    Deep Green Resistance means repair of human culture.
6.    Deep Green Resistance recognizes the necessity of militant action.

All significant changes in human organization have entailed direct confrontations with power: the American Revolution, French Revolution, Irish Independence Movement, Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, Front Liberation du Quebec, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, Cruise Missile protests, Claquot Sound, Meares Island……

Humans make change to ideological straitjackets because we possess an inbuilt character trait called a “moral imperative.” [12] A moral imperative is like a chemical reaction. Humans are hard-wired to defend ourselves or our Beloved, just like a mother will defend at any cost her child.

This compulsion to act, this moral imperative, is an instinct and a powerful one.  This impulse to defend our Beloved is hard-wired into being human.

Question:   What do you get when you blend the theory and actions of American marine biologist, conservationist and lesbian Dr. Rachel Carson with the ideas of American radical feminist philosopher, theologian, and lesbian Dr. Mary Daly; and the cultural and historical perspectives of nature found in the work of Canadian naturalist, broadcaster, writer and teacher John Livingston?

Answer:   A 21st century Radical Feminist Resistance movement with a clarion call to Rise, Act, and Defend our Beloved Earth:  because to defend our Beloved is human and it is in our nature to do so.

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Trish Oliver is a lesbian radical feminist, deep ecologist and Sculptor. Trish is a founding member of Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), a Teacher, has practiced the martial art of Aikido for twenty years, and is a member of Deep Green Resistance. Trish graduated from York University in Toronto in 1989. John Livingston was her Masters supervisor and “thinking” mentor, and his “radical” ideas changed her life path.

ENDNOTES

  1. Carson, Rachel. (1962) Silent Spring
  2. Daly, Mary. (2015) https://philosophynow.org/issues/3 “There are several definitions but I’ll give you the core of it. First of all the word ‘radical’ means ‘going to the roots’. It is derived from the Latin radix, meaning root. Radical Feminism goes to the root of oppression and the way out. And I define it as ‘way of being characterised by (a) an Awesome and Ecstatic sense of Otherness from patriarchal norms and values (b) conscious awareness of the sadosociety’s sanctions against Radical Feminists (c) moral outrage on behalf of women as women (d) commitment to the cause of women that persists, even against the current, when feminism is no longer ‘popular;’ in other words, constancy.”
  3. Daly, Mary. (2015)  https://philosophynow.org/issues/3 “The definition as I wrote it is still the one I would maintain, but in the current crisis of life on earth and the danger to all animals, plants, rocks, minerals, as well as women from the phallocrats who are destroying the planet, I now say ‘radical ecological feminism.’ There is a desperate commitment in my writing to ecology and feminism.” https://philosophynow.org/issues/3
  4. Evernden, Neil., (1992), The Social Construction of Nature.
  5. Livingston, John. (1973), One Cosmic Instant (1981), The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation (1988), 8 Lectures on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8Y7PZ_DVes (1992), Rogue Primate: An Exploration of Human Domestication
  6. Jensen, Derrick., (1995), Listening to the Land, Interview with John Livingston
  7. Jensen, Derrick., (1995), Listening to the Land, Interview with John Livingston
  8. Jensen, Derrick), (1995), Listening to the Land, Interview with John Livingston.
  9. Kuhn, Thomas., (1962), The Structure of Scientific Revolution.
  10. Naess, Arne and George Sessions.,(1984) The Deep Ecology Platform http://www.deepecology.org/platform.htm
  11. Keith, Lierre, McBay, Aric and Derrick Jensen., (2011). Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_imperative

REFERENCES

Carson, Rachel. (1962) Silent Spring

Daly, Mary (1990)

Gyn/Ecology Aug/Sept  (2015) https://philosophynow.org/issues/33/Mary_Daly

Evernden, Neil. (1983) The Natural Alien (1992) The Social Construction of Nature

Fertile Ground Institute (2014) Earth at Risk 2014 Social Justice and Sustainability

Firestone, Shulamith. (1970) The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution

Hedges, Chris. (2010) Death of the Liberal Class

Jensen, Derrick. (1995) Listening to the Land, (2000) Language Older than Words, (2002) Culture of Make Believe, (2006) Endgame 1 & 2, (2008) What We Leave Behind

Jensen, Derrick & L. Keith. (2013) Earth at Risk : Building a Resistance Movement to Save the Planet

Keith, Lierre. (2009)  The Vegetarian Myth

Keith, L., McBay, A. &   Derrick Jensen. (2011) Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet

Kuhn, Thomas. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolution

Livingston, John. (1973) One Cosmic Instant: A Natural History of human Arrogance, (1981) The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation (1995) Rogue Primate:  An Exploration of Human Domestication, (1988)  YouTube. John Livingston Lectures on Cultural and Historical Perspectives of Nature.

The Wyrd Sisters: Farewell to Clayoquot Sound

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The Girls and the Grasses

Captured in a test tube, blood may look like a static liquid, but it’s alive, as animate and intelligent as the rest of you. It also makes up a great deal of you: of your 50 trillion cells, one-quarter are red blood cells. Two million are born every second. On their way to maturation, red blood cells jettison their nuclei―their DNA, their capacity to divide and repair. They have no future, only a task: to carry the hemoglobin that will hold your oxygen. They don’t use the oxygen themselves–they only transport it. This they do with exquisite precision, completing a cycle of circulation through your body every twenty seconds for a hundred days. Then they die.

The core of hemoglobin is a molecule of iron. It’s the iron that grasps the oxygen at the surface of your lungs, hangs on through the rush of blood, then releases it to wanting cells. If iron goes missing, the body, as ever, has a fallback plan. It adds more water to increase blood volume; thin blood travels faster through the fine capillaries. Do more with less.

All good except there’s less and less oxygen offered to the cells. Another plan kicks in: increased cardiac output. The heart ups its stroke volume and its rate. To keep you from exploding, the brain joins in, sending signals to the muscles enfolding each blood vessel, telling them to relax. Now blood volume can increase with blood pressure stable.

But still no iron arrives. At this point, the other organs have to cooperate, giving up blood flow to protect the brain and heart. The skin makes major sacrifices, which is why anemics are known for their pallor. Symptoms perceived by the person―you―will probably increase as your tissues, and then organs, begin to starve.

If there is no relief, ultimately all the plans will fail. Even a strong heart can only strain for so long. Blood backs up into the capillaries. Under the pressure, liquid seeps out into surrounding tissues. You are now swelling and you don’t know why. Then the lungs are breached. The alveoli, the tiny sacs that await the promise of air, stiffen from the gathering flood. It doesn’t take much. The sacs fill with fluid. Your body is drowning itself. This is called pulmonary edema, and you are in big trouble.

I know this because it happened to me. Uterine fibroids wrung a murder scene from me every month; the surgery to remove them pushed me across the red cell Rubicon. I knew nothing: my body understood and responded. My eyes swelled, then my ankles, my calves. Then I couldn’t breathe. Then it hurt to breathe. I finally stopped taking advice from my dog―Take a nap! With me!–and dragged myself to the ER, where, eventually, all was revealed.

Two weeks later, the flood had subsided, absorbed back into some wetland tissue of my body, and I felt the absence of pain as a positive. Breathing was exquisite, the sweetest thing I could imagine. Every moment of effortless air was all I could ever want. I knew it would fade and I would forget. But for a few days, I was alive. And it was good.

Our bodies are both all we have and everything we could want. We are alive and we get to be alive. There is joy on the surface of the skin waiting for sunlight and soft things (both of which produce endorphins, so yes: joy). There is the constant, stalwart sound of our hearts. Babies who are carried against their mothers’ hearts learn to breathe better than those who aren’t. There is the strength of bone and the stretch of muscle and their complex coordination. We are a set of electrical impulses inside a watery environment: how? Well, the nerves that conduct the impulses are sheathed by a fatty substance called myelin―they’re insulated. This permits “agile communication between distant body parts.” Understand this: it’s all alive, it all communicates, it makes decisions, and it knows what it’s doing. You can’t possibly fathom its intricacies. To start to explore the filigree of brain, synapse, nerve, and muscle is to know that even the blink of your eyes is a miracle.

Pracht_1.tif

Our brains were two million years in the making. That long, slow accretion doubled our cranial capacity. And the first thing we did with it was say thank you. We drew the megafauna and the megafemales, sculpted and carved them. The oldest known figurative sculpture is the Goddes of Hohle Fels, and 40,000 years ago someone spent hundreds of hours carving Her. There is no mystery here, not to me: the animals and the women gave us life. Of course they were our first, endless art project. Awe and thanksgiving are built into us, body and brain. Once upon a time , we knew we were alive. And it was good.

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And now we leave the realm of miracles and enter hell.

Patriarchy is the ruling religion of the planet. It comes in variations―some old, some new, some ecclesiastical, some secular. But at bottom, they are all necrophilic. Erich Fromm describes necrophilia as “the passion to transform that which is alive into something unalive; to destroy for the sake of destruction; the exclusive interest in all that is purely mechanical.” In this religion, the worst sin is being alive, and the carriers of that sin are female. Under patriarchy, the female body is loathsome; its life-giving fat-cells vilified; its generative organs despised. Its natural condition is always ridiculed: normal feet must be turned into four-inch stubs; rib cages must be crushed into collapse; breasts are varyingly too big or too small or excised entirely. That this inflicts pain―if not constant agony―is not peripheral to these practices. It’s central. When she suffers, she is made obedient.

Necrophilia is the end point of sadism. The sadistic urge is about control–“the passion to have absolute and unrestricted control over a living being,” as Fromm defined it. The objective of inflicting pain and degradation is to break a human being. Pain is always degrading; victimization humiliates; eventually, everyone breaks. The power to do that is the sadist’s dream. And who could be more broken to your control than a woman who can’t walk?

Some nouns: glass, scissors, razors, acid. Some verbs: cut, scrape, cauterize, burn. These nouns and verbs create unspeakable sentences when the object is a seven-year-old girl with her legs forced open. The clitoris, with its 8,000 nerve endings, is always sliced up. In the most extreme forms of FGM, the labia are cut off and the vagina sewn shut. On her wedding night, the girl’s husband will penetrate her with a knife before his penis.

You don’t do this to a human being. You do it to an object. That much is true. But there is more. Because the world is full of actual objects—cardboard boxes and abandoned cars—and men don’t spend their time torturing those. They know we aren’t objects, that we have nerves that feel and flesh that bruises. They know we have nowhere else to go when they lay claim to our bodies. That’s where the sadist finds his pleasure: pain produces suffering, humiliation perhaps more, and if he can inflict that on her, it’s absolute proof of his control.

Behind the sadists are the institutions, the condensations of power, that hand us to him. Every time a judge rules that women have no right to bodily integrity—that upskirt photos are legal, the miscarriages are murder, that women should expect to be beaten—he wins. Every time the Fashion Masters make heels higher and clothes smaller, he smiles. Every time an entire class of women—the poorest and most desperate, at the bottom of every conceivable hierarchy—are declared legal commodities for sex, he gets a collective hard-on. Whether he personally uses any such women is beside the point. Society has ruled they are there for him, other men have ensured their compliance, and they will comply. He can kill one—the ultimate sex act for the sadist—and no one will notice. And no one does.

There is no stop to this, no natural endpoint. There is always another sentient, self-willed being to inflame his desire to control, so the addiction is forever fed. With other addictions, the addict bottoms out, his life becomes unmanageable, and the stark choice is stop or die. But the sadist isn’t hurting himself. There’s no looming bottom to hit, only an endless choice of victims, served up by the culture. Women are the feast at our own funeral, and he is happy to feed.

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If feminism was reduced to one word, it would be this: no. “No” is a boundary, spoken only by a self who claims one. Objects have neither; subjects begin at no. Feminists said no and we meant it.

The boundary of “no” extended outward, an insult to one being an injury to all: “we” is the word of political movements. Without it, women are cast adrift in a hostile, chaotic sea, holding our breath against the next Bad Thing. With the lens of feminism, the chaos snaps into sharp focus. We gave words to the Bad Things, then faced down denial and despair to see the pattern. That’s called theory. Then we demanded remedies. That’s what subjects, especially political subjects, do. Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British suffragettes, worked at the Census Office as a birth registrar. Every day, young girls came in with their newborns. Every day, she had to ask who the father was, and every day the girls wept in humiliation and rage. Reader, you know who the fathers were. That’s why Pankhurst never gave up.

To say no to the sadist is to assert those girls as political subjects, as human beings with the standing the comes from inalienable rights. Each and every life is self-willed and sovereign; each life can only be lived in a body. Not an object to be broken down for parts: a living body. Child sexual abuse is especially designed to turn the body into a cage. The bars may start as terror and pain but they will harden to self-loathing. Instilling shame is the best method to ensure compliance: we are ashamed—sexual violation is very good at that—and for the rest of our lives we will comply. Our compliance is, of course, his control. His power is his pleasure, and another generation of girls will grow up in bodies they will surely hate, to be women who comply.

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What has been done to our bodies has been done to our planet. The sadist exerts his control; the necrophiliac turns the living into the dead. The self-willed and the wild are their targets and their necrotic project is almost complete.

Taken one by one, the facts are appalling. In my lifetime, the earth has lost half her wildlife. Every day, two hundred species slip into that longest night of extinction. “Ocean” is synonymous with the words abundance and plenty. Fullness is on the list, as well as infinity. And by 2048, the oceans will be empty of fish. Crustaceans are experiencing “complete reproductive failure.” In plain terms, their babies are dying. Plankton are also disappearing. Maybe plankton are too small and green for anyone to care about, but know this: two out of three animal breaths are made possible by the oxygen plankton produce. If the oceans go down, we go down with them.

How could it be otherwise? See the pattern, not just the facts. There were so many bison on the Great Plains, you could sit and watch for days as a herd thundered by. In the central valley of California, the flocks of waterbirds were so thick they blocked out the sun. One-quarter of Indiana was a wetland, lush with life and the promise of more. Now it’s a desert of corn. Where I live in the pacific northwest, ten million fish have been reduced to ten thousand. People would hear them coming for a whole day. This is not a story: there are people alive who remember it. And I have never once heard the sound that water makes when forty million years of persistence finds it way home. Am I allowed to use the word “apocalypse” yet?

The necrophiliac insists we are mechanical components, that rivers are an engineering project, and genes can be sliced up and arranged at whim. He believes we are all machines, despite the obvious: a machine can be taken apart and put back together. A living being can’t. May I add: neither can a living planet.

Understand where the war against the world began. In seven places around the globe, humans took up the activity called agriculture. In very brute terms, you take a piece of land, you clear every living thing off it, and then you plant it to human use. Instead of sharing that land with the other million creatures who need to live there, you’re only growing humans on it. It’s biotic cleansing. The human population grows to huge numbers; everyone else is driven into extinction.

Agriculture creates a way of life called civilization. Civilization means people living in cities. What that means is: they need more than the land can give. Food, water, energy have to come from someplace else. It doesn’t matter what lovely, peaceful values people hold in their hearts. The society is dependent on imperialism and genocide. Because no one willing gives up their land, their water, their trees. But since the city has used up its own, it has to go out and get those from somewhere else. That’s the last 10,000 years in a few sentences.

The end of every civilization is written into the beginning. Agriculture destroys the world. That’s not agriculture on a bad day. That’s what agriculture is. You pull down the forest, you plow up the prairie, you drain the wetland. Especially, you destroy the soil. Civilizations last between 800 and maybe 2,000 years—they last until the soil gives out.

What could be more sadistic then control of entire continents? He turns mountains into rubble, and rivers must do as they are told. The basic unit of life is violated with genetic engineering. The basic unit of matter as well, to make bombs that kill millions. This is his passion, turning the living into the dead. It’s not just individual deaths and not even the deaths of species. The process of life itself is now under assault and it is losing badly. Vertebrate evolution has long since come to a halt—there isn’t enough habitat left. There are areas in China where there are no flowering plants. Why? Because the pollinators are all dead. That’s five hundred million years of evolution: gone.

He wants it all dead. That’s his biggest thrill and the only way he can control it. According to him it was never alive. There is no self-willed community, no truly wild land. It’s all inanimate components he can arrange to this liking, a garden he can manage. Never mind that every land so managed has been lessened into desert. The essential integrity of life has been breached, and now he claims it never existed. He can do whatever he wants. And no one stops him.

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Can we stop him?

I say yes, but then I have no intention of giving up. The facts as they stand are unbearable, but it’s only in facing them that pattern comes clear. Civilization is based on drawdown. It props itself up with imperialism, conquering its neighbors and stripping their land, but eventually even the colonies wear out. Fossil fuel has been an accelerant, as has capitalism, but the underlying problem is much bigger than either. Civilization requires agriculture, and agriculture is a war against the living world. Whatever good was in the culture before, ten thousand years of that war has turned it necrotic.

But what humans do they can stop doing. Granted every institution is headed in the wrong direction, there’s no material reason the destruction must continue. The reason is political: the sadist is rewarded, and rewarded well. Most leftists and environmentalists see that. What they don’t see is the central insight of radical feminism: his pleasure in domination.

The real brilliance of patriarchy is right here: it doesn’t just naturalize oppression, it sexualizes acts of oppression. It eroticizes domination and subordination and then institutionalizes them into masculinity and femininity. Men become real men by breaking boundaries—the sexual boundaries of women and children, the cultural and political boundaries of indigenous people, the biological boundaries of rivers and forests, the genetic boundaries of other species, and the physical boundaries of the atom itself. The sadist is rewarded with money and power, but he also gets a sexual thrill from dominating. And the end of the world is a mass circle jerk of autoerotic asphyxiation.

The real brilliance of feminism is that we figured that out.

What has to happen to save our planet is simple: stop the war. If we just get out of the way, life will return because life wants to live. The forests and prairies will find their way back. Every dam will fail, every cement channel, and the rivers will ease their sorrows and meet the ocean again. The fish will know what to do. In being eaten, they feed the forest, which protects the rivers, which makes a home for more salmon. This is not the death of destruction but the death of participation that makes the world whole.

Sometimes there are facts that require all the courage we have in our hearts. Here is one. Carbon has breached 400 ppm. For life to continue, that carbon needs to get back into the ground. And so we come to grasses.

Where the world is wet, trees make forests. Where it’s dry, the grasses grow. Grasslands endure extreme heat in summer and vicious cold in winter. Grasses survive by keeping 80 percent of their bodies underground, in the form of roots. Those roots are crucial to the community of life. They provide physical channels for rain to enter the soil. They can reach down fifteen feet and bring up minerals from the rocks below, minerals that every living creature needs. They can build soil at an extraordinary rate. The base material they use to make soil is carbon. Which means the grasses are our only hope to get that carbon out of the sky.

And they will do it if we let them. If we could repair 75 percent of the world’s grasslands—destroyed by the war of agriculture—in under fifteen years, the grasses would sequester all the carbon that’s been released since the beginning of the industrial age. Read that again if you need to. Then take it with you wherever you go. Tell it to anyone who will listen. There is still a chance.

bison

The grasses can’t do it alone. No creature exists independent of all others. Repairing the grasslands means restoring the ruminants. In the hot, dry summer, life goes dormant on the surface of the soil. It’s the ruminants who keep the nutrient cycle moving. They carry an ecosystem inside themselves, especially the bacteria that digests cellulose. When a bison grazes, she’s not actually eating the grass. She’s feeding it to her bacteria. The bacteria eat the grass and then she eats the bacteria. Her wastes then water and fertilize the grasses. And the circle is complete.

The grasslands have been eradicated for agriculture, to grow cereal grains for people. Because I want to restore the grasses, I get accused of wanting to kill six billion people. That’s not a random number. In 1800, at the beginning of the Industrial Age, there were one billion people. Now there are seven billion. Six billion are only here because of fossil fuel. Eating a non-renewable resource was never a plan with a future. Yet pointing that out somehow makes me a mass murderer.

Start with the obvious. Nothing we do at these numbers is sustainable. Ninety-eight percent of the old-growth forests and 99 percent of the grasslands are gone, and gone with them was most of the soil they built. There’s nothing left to take. The planet has been skinned alive.

Add to that: all civilizations end in collapse. All of them. How could it be otherwise if your way of life relies on destroying the place you live? The soil is gone and the oil is running out. By avoiding the facts, we are ensuring it will end in the worst possible way.

We can do better than mass starvation, failed states, ethnic strife, misogyny, petty warlords, and the dystopian scenarios that collapse brings. It’s very simple: reproduce at less than replacement numbers. The problem will take care of itself. And now we come to the girls.

What drops the birthrate universally is raising the status of women. Very specifically, the action with the greatest impact is teaching a girl to read. When women and girls have even that tiny bit of power over their lives, they choose to have fewer children. Yes, women need birth control, but what we really need is liberty. Around the world, women have very little control over how men use our bodies. Close to half of all pregnancies are unplanned or unwanted. Pregnancy is the second leading cause of death for girls age 15-19. Not much has changed since Emmeline Pankhurst refused to give up.

We should be defending the human rights of girls because girls matter. As it turns out, the basic rights of girls are crucial to the survival of the planet.

girl with wolf

Can we stop him?

Yes, but only if we understand what we’re up against.

He wants the world dead. Anything alive must be replaced by something mechanical. He prefers gears, pistons, circuits to soft animal bodies, even his own. He hopes to upload himself into a computer some day.

He wants the world dead. He enjoys making it submit. He’s erected giant cities where once were forests. Concrete and asphalt tame the unruly.

He wants the world dead. Anything female must be punished, permanently. The younger they are, the sooner they break. So he starts early.

A war against your body is a war against your life. If he can get us to fight the war for him, we’ll never be free. But we said every woman’s body was sacred. And we meant it, too. Every creature has her own physical integrity, an inviolable whole. It’s a whole too complex to understand, even as we live inside it. I had no idea why my eyes were swelling and my lungs were aching. The complexities of keeping me alive could never be left to me.

One teaspoon of soil contains a million living creatures. One tiny scoop of life and it’s already more complex than we could ever understand. And he thinks he can manage oceans?

We’re going to have to match his contempt with our courage. We’re going to have to match his brute power with our fierce and fragile dreams. And we’re going to have to match his bottomless sadism with a determination that will not bend and will not break and will not stop.

And if we can’t do it for ourselves, we have to do it for the girls.

Whatever you love, it is under assault. Love is a verb. May that love call us to action.

 

Lierre Keith is the author of six books. Visit her website at www.lierrekeith.com

Music for today is The Curse by Lierre Keith

 

Pornography and Humiliation

By Rebecca Whisnant

On the cover of a porn DVD, a young white woman clad only in skimpy underpants kneels and smiles coyly over her shoulder at the camera. Her name is Jamie, we’re told. In her hand is a glass containing a milky substance. The tagline reads “Watch hot sluts drink spooge out of their asses!” The copy on the back cover gleefully clarifies the mechanics: “Nut in her butt and watch her push it out and swallow!” The film is entitled “Anal Cumsumption #4.”

What has happened to this woman, to Jamie? Many things, no doubt, but prominent among them is that she has been humiliated. But what does that mean?

In ordinary conversation, the concept is often used interchangeably with that of embarrassment. “I was so humiliated,” one says, “when my child had a tantrum at the grocery store,” or “when I realized I’d had spinach in my teeth during my presentation.” The notion of unwelcome public exposure is central to both concepts.

The distinctive core of the concept of humiliation, however, is captured in its dictionary definition. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to humiliate is “to make low or humble in position, condition, or feeling.” The term’s etymological root is the Latin humilis, meaning low. Merriam Webster echoes this emphasis: “to reduce to a lower position in one’s own eyes or others’ eyes: mortify.” Jamie has indeed been made low—in others’ eyes, at least, and very likely in her own. This in turn illuminates the OED’s second definition for humiliate: “to lower or depress the dignity or self-respect of.”

This latter theme looms large in philosophical discussions. As Daniel Statman observes, “Humiliation is seen as first and foremost an injury to the dignity of its victims, an injury usually described in figurative language: in humiliation, one ‘is stripped of one’s dignity’, one is ‘robbed of’ dignity, or simply ‘loses’ it.” Avishai Margalit, who makes non-humiliation the centerpiece of his concept of a “decent society,” defines humiliation as “any sort of behavior or condition that constitutes a sound reason for a person to consider his or her self-respect injured.”

That much will have to do for now, definition-wise. You’ll also have to take my word that the “Anal Cumsumption” example is not an outlier—that in fact, the humiliation of women is a virtual constant in contemporary mainstream pornography. Here a woman crawls on hands and knees; there a penis is shoved in her mouth sideways, distending the face, so that she looks ridiculous; and everywhere, she intones “I’m such a filthy little whore.” Over 40% of the best-selling porn titles analyzed in a recent study contained “ass to mouth” scenes, in which a man removes his penis from a woman’s anus and puts it directly, without cleaning, into her mouth or the mouth of another woman. A more total humiliation is difficult to conceive.

So what? Why does this matter? It matters, first of all, for the women who perform in pornography. What is the impact of humiliating performance on those from whom such performance is extracted?

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When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004, many noted that, while some of the Iraqi prisoners were physically harmed, the horror of the abuse lay at least equally in their humiliation. Men were made to crawl on the floor wearing leashes, to wear panties on their heads, to masturbate for the camera, to have other men urinate in their mouths, to climb naked onto a pyramid, all so that pictures could be taken and passed around and crowed over.​

Many survivors of torture, in fact, report that the worst element was not the pain but the humiliation. Pain ends, but one remains haunted by the image of oneself exposed, soiled, splayed, begging, in abject passivity and shame. Indeed, David Luban points out that humiliation is central to the evil of pain itself—in general, and especially when the pain is humanly inflicted and watched by others: “acute pain is itself degrading because it collapses our world and reduces us to mere prisoners of our bodies. . . . when it happens in front of spectators, the experience is doubly shameful and humiliating.” The humiliation tactics used against War on Terror detainees, he observes, “were ‘Ego Down’ and ‘Futility’ tactics—the Army’s names for tactics designed to break the detainees by making them feel worthless and filling them with despair.” It should not surprise us, then, that (again according to Luban), “a recent medical study found absolutely no difference between the traumatic psychological after-effects of physical torture and humiliation.”

So in some contexts, we recognize easily that being humiliated is terrible and traumatic—indeed, a violation of human rights. What, then, of humiliation in pornography? Oh, we say, well, that’s totally different you see . . . because unlike the Abu Ghraib prisoners, the women in porn are consenting, and that makes it all better. See, here is the form where she signed on the dotted line, all grown up at 19 or 21. Big girl, knows what she’s doing, next topic.

But this gets it exactly wrong, missing just what is so destructive about humiliation in pornography. The presence of consent does not make the humiliation here better; it makes it worse—not worse all things considered, but worse in a particular and important respect.

If anything, consent exacerbates the shame for the woman herself. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: what we see in the picture or film is not that this low and dirty thing was done to her, but that she did it. The pornography thus purports to reveal some essential truth about her, not about someone else’s wrongdoing.

Think back to Jamie: No one else is in the frame, handing her the glass of ejaculate or encouraging her to drink it, let alone making her do so. She drinks ejaculate out of her own rectum all on her own, apparently, because that’s just the kind of girl she is.

And what kind of girl is that? What are we left to think of Jamie and all the others like her who populate this multi-billion dollar “empire of images”?

The women’s consent—whether actual or merely apparent—leaves us grasping for explanations. The most readily available such explanations make it seem that the women are not really being degraded after all, but simply treated in ways congruent with their own nature and will.

These women humiliate themselves willingly—perhaps because they place little value on their own personal dignity, or perhaps because they are too stupid even to realize that they’re being insulted and degraded. Almost certainly, they are economically desperate (in a culture that sees such desperation, especially in women, as an occasion for contempt rather than empathy and help). Take your pick, mix and match: at the end of the day, they are just whores, and we all know what whores deserve.

We cringe at the Abu Ghraib images because in them we see people who have personal dignity to take away, who are being wrongfully “brought low.” By contrast, Jamie, for instance, is not being “brought low”—she just IS low. We can tell, because she does it all willingly. She reaches for the glass of ejaculate, she smiles, she guzzles. What would degrade others does not degrade her; rather it simply reflects and gratifies her nature. She is not a human being, she is only a woman.

In discussions about pornography, well-meaning people often aver that, however distasteful it may be, we must accept pornography so long as it depicts only “consenting adults.” That is, the absence of consent is assumed to demarcate the boundaries of the harmful and unacceptable. My brief analysis here, however, points to the damaging poverty of this approach. Images of women accepting and even welcoming their own debasement and humiliation are profoundly destructive, not only for the particular women so depicted, but for women generally. After all, pornography purports to reveal the down-and-dirty truth, not about men, or capitalism, or patriarchy, but about women—who we are and what we are for. And like all propaganda, it uses individuals as stand-ins for entire targeted groups.

Thus, at the level of ideology, Jamie is not just a woman, but Woman. In the world of pornography, and in the world pornography has helped to make, Jamie’s willing humiliation shows that she has no human dignity to lose, that she is only a woman after all.

Sources

Bridges, Ana et. al., “Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update.” Violence Against Women 16:10, 2010.

Luban, David. “Human dignity, humiliation, and torture.” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 19:3, 2009.

Margalit, Avishai. The decent society. Harvard University Press, 1998.

Statman, Daniel. “Humiliation, dignity, and self-respect.”

Philosophical Psychology 13:4, 2000.

Aretha Franklin, “Respect.”

Coming Sunday: Trish Oliver says Fight for your Beloved, and Lierre Keith on the Girls and the Grasses.

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Will Men Really Benefit From Feminism?

By Vliet Tiptree

We feminists have promised men, at least the toilers who also suffer under the elite, better conditions after Revolution XX, but these conditions have remained vague. Will they really benefit from feminism?

Let me begin by saying that What About Teh Menz has not exactly been Topic Numero Uno for Radfems. However, it has been important to mainstream feminists to hasten to reassure men that feminism benefits everybody, including right-wing reactionary men. Radfems should weigh in on this topic. Why? Because we should weigh in on every topic.

Let me also add that I speak only of post-industrial countries. In the rest, discussing these topics may get one shot in the face, so I will pass for now.

We feminists have promised to support men’s ideal of classlessness, and it is true, we know class divisions and inferiority must be abolished so long as the shame of being low on the totem pole of male hierarchy causes so much male violence. We plan to put a stop to that, especially when directed at women and children. But men may say that all that will happen is that they will lose a time-honored likkered-up tradition of lashing out, because we can’t deliver on the classlessness. It’s fair to say that we’ll try, but if men themselves insist on keeping their male hierarchies, there isn’t much we can do about it, we can only prevent them from hurting women and children when they feel inferior and can’t get at the elite. So working men may lose their scapegoats and battering-objects and still be stuck with their elite. We can’t do that alone, and shouldn’t pretend we can.

We have promised a caring new world in which social welfare, rather than death and destruction, will become the norm. We say that old and disabled men in particular will benefit. True, we will have excellent hospitals and social services after Revolution XX. There will be food, clothing and shelter for all. No one will be homeless or commit suicide because she or he is being evicted. But this caring labor won’t come free. No longer will there be a daughter or wife to do the daily grunge work for such men out of ancient servitude rather than a living wage. And there will be no prostitutes to make up for the difficulty of finding voluntary sex partners. Further, all this caring will divert the money traditionally spent for war to life-affirming stuff, and the old guys are proud of their warrior pasts and support war in general. Therefore they may take this new caringness as a net loss.

We say men need to cry more and deplore their lack of emotion, empathy, tears, and other expressions which are currently denied to them. We want to make it perfectly acceptable for men to weep. However, it appears that testosterone is the main reason men don’t cry much, and male anger would have to give way to make room for the less, shall we say, virile, emotions. What man wants to give up his anger? I am not sure men will choose this option even when they are free to do so. Is squeezing out the occasional tear ever as fun as a mantrum?

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All feminists explain that equal women are much more intellectually interesting (radfems agree heartily). However, painting ourselves each morning and wearing crippling accessories and suffocating clothing items would have to go. We are not actually sure men would prefer us to be discussing the possible return of the drachma if we insisted on doing so in the same well-worn sweats and trainers they’re wearing.

We all know it’s not a win-lose situation. But there are only 100 U.S. Senators, and it must be admitted that we women would insist on being 50 of them. The men eased out from the apex of world power would be a considerable number, but we offer them the new privilege of becoming elementary school teachers and correcting feminist bias against boys.   It does cross our minds that individual men like Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Donald Trump might feel they were losing a privilege or two, even so.

Rape, too, would no longer be an outlet utilizing either men or women. The prisons will just have to muddle along without their main correctional device. The same goes for the most popular method of harassing lesbians in South Africa. These methods will be replaced by ameliorating poverty, supporting education, making liberal use of severe social stigma, and punishments more suited to the crime (see, A Clockwork Orange). Most men would agree that rape must go and applaud its disappearance in prisons, but may perhaps feel it is a deprivation to also, in consequence, get rid of the two social institutions which most strongly support rape culture, namely, prostitution and pornography.

We also promise that men will be able to see their little ones grow up, if they so choose (and whether they want to or not as regards the concomitant housework).   Yes, they will have equal parental leave when a new baby comes. Yet I see a certain shrinking back in many men from the prospect of leaving their outside jobs and staying home to maintain the household and sacrifice their time 24/7 to a squalling bundle. Perhaps this benefit we promise is not really something they will rush to take advantage of.

In addition, with women’s equal sexual freedom and control over our bodies, we invite men to imagine a world of sexual access that was previously denied them. Of course, many more women will immediately turn lesbian or celibate or vow never to have PIV intercourse again, once they figure out it’s not what men held it out to be.   So this may be less of a benefit than it appears.

But wait. Look what we have been holding back, a huge and beneficial change! Women will no longer be economically dependent on men! We will make our own money. We will cease our devious ways of finagling money from men’s wallets, we will stop marrying hypergamously, we will no longer be gold-diggers, we will not provoke and frustrate because we will no longer need to dress like hookers — we will abjure all those annoying stereotypes that drive men mad! We will become people who buy dinner! Then again, nothing will now compel those of us who unfortunately remain het to become involved with a man, other than the man’s merit as a companion and lover, but we’re sure men will rise to the occasion.

As for those family courts in which ex-wives get custody and spousal support, with women’s moneymaking parity, spousal support will become a non-issue. Both sexes will get to contribute to their beloved cheatin’ lyin’ ex! As for child custody, all divorcing men will be encouraged, delivered, even, kicking and screaming, to insisting on equal physical custody rights. We are sure they will break down the doors of family court and we will be there to cheer them on!

Then there are men’s inflated images of themselves. Little girls will no longer have any reason to be jealous of little boys’ genitalia, making the Oedipus Complex an anachronism. Men will be reminded, all in good humor, that not only are women as competent in the public arena as they are, we give birth. The re-valuing of women may be taken as a loss to a few, a very few we are sure, egomaniacal men.

Virginia Woolf was reflecting on such benefits to men upon the liberation of women, when she ran across another example of the gazillions of   historical pronouncements of women’s natural inferiority, a rather vehement pronouncement by a distinguished (male) professor, one with a familiar rancor (now called misogyny) detectable in it. Her thoughts ran this way:

“Possibly when the professor insisted a little too emphatically upon the inferiority of women, he was concerned not with their inferiority, but with his own superiority…because it was a jewel to him of the rarest price. Life for both sexes…is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything…it calls for confidence in oneself.

” …And how can we generate this imponderable quality…most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself.”

“…Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size…Whatever may be their use in civilized societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action. That is why both Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of women, for if [women] were not inferior, they would cease to enlarge.

“That serves to explain in part the necessity that women so often are to men. And it serves to explain how restless they are under her criticism; how impossible it is for her to say this book is bad, this picture is feeble, or whatever it may be, without giving far more pain and rousing far more anger than a man would do who gave the same criticism.

“For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilizing natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and dinner at least twice the size he really is?”

Well, we believe and say that women can enlarge without men having to shrink. But we may be dissembling as still-not-fully-liberated women do, we aren’t sure. Perhaps we can all come together and find some inferior, non-human creatures who won’t be harmed, to enlarge both sexes, to praise us and witness our bravery and need us and curry our favor and scrub our toilets and suffer our blows. Maybe zebras will do, if they are still around.

If not, we must admit: men will shrink to meet our enlarging. They will deflate like one of Tom Brady’s footballs. They will be eyeball-to-eyeball with their equals, and that, as Gertrude Stein no doubt said, is that is that is that.

Or, as Simone de Beauvoir probably put it, tant pis.

Originally posted at Feminism XX

Ferron, “It Won’t Take Long.”

Coming Soon: Rebecca Whisnant on Pornography and Humiliation.

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What Radical Feminism Has Taught Me

By Kaye Murdoch

I grew up being told I was “too much.”  I was too much trouble because I had eye problems that required a lot of trips to the eye doctor.  I was too much trouble because I was an energetic kid who always wanted someone in my family to play with me.  I was too much trouble because I was good at school and my teachers wanted to meet with my parents to discuss what to do with me, to give me more challenge.

I learned early on that I didn’t like feeling in trouble and the best way to avoid feeling in trouble was to try very hard to be good, which meant to be quiet and play alone and do extra chores around the house; it meant not to bother anyone.

I felt like I had to earn a place in my family, that I wasn’t wanted, that I was tolerated, regardless of how small I made my footprint.

Later I learned that it was true that I wasn’t wanted, I was the product of an affair that my mother had for over twenty years, and both she and my biologic father took that secret to their graves.  I found out after they each died and I could not ask either of them about it.

I also learned later that my mother had grown up in such poverty, with an alcoholic father who abandoned the family, that she and her younger sister were in and out of the local orphanage and also fostered out, which was better than the fate of the next youngest sister, who was given away to adoption and never spoken of again. In my mother’s family, you could be so much trouble that you could be sent away.

My mother told me and my sister that men “only wanted one thing”, and that we were not to walk in isolated places, like along the rail road tracks, and when we were walking anywhere, we were to walk “like you mean business.”

I later learned my mother had been molested (to some unspoken degree) by at least one foster father and one step father.

I learned at a young age, twelve, that I was a lesbian, although I didn’t quite know what that meant (it was the early seventies), and consequently I did not draw any boy attention (I did not try and they did not look), which seemed to please my mother.  As the school years went by, I increasingly stood out, in my jeans and t-shirts and lack of make-up and my “funny” walk, and by high school I was ostracized for being presumed to be a lesbian, although I wasn’t out and was still trying to figure out what it all meant.  I was rendered invisible at school, with no one speaking to me, except in class if they wanted my help with their homework.  I had no friends.

My home was alcoholic and I could not talk to my parents.  My sister had run away in junior high school.

I got through high school and left home and went to university, because school was what I was good at, and because I believed that anyone could do anything if she or he tried hard enough.  I liked feeling brave, breaking a new trail by being the only person in my family to go to university, living in an adventurous new city, and I found friends.  I felt like I could breathe and my life was finally starting.  I went into science and then into medicine.  I felt like I fit in.  I felt I belonged.

Years later, as I failed to gain promotions or positions of leadership, as my income paled in comparison with my male colleagues, I realized that I had not blended in but was tolerated, even invisible, again.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I began to have relationships, and most of them were short, which I thought was part of learning to date.

In my forties I met a woman who I felt was my true love and I spent almost ten years with her, or, rather, trying to be with her.  It wasn’t until the last few years that I figured out I was invisible with her, that I was always scrambling to earn my place with her, always trying to be good and avoid trouble.  She played near and far with me, broke up with me at any frustration many times, and sent me away or disappeared from me often; she encouraged me to move into an expensive apartment that she would join me in, only to put off moving in with me for six months then a year then forever; she pretended at work that she was straight and divorced, period. I kept believing it was up to me to make up for my deficits, and she knew, albeit unconsciously, how to trigger that in me, rather than stand firm that it was up to us together to build a healthy dynamic. I had trapped myself in the familiar terrain of my childhood relationships.

I assumed in my younger years that being a lesbian was enough to be a feminist.  It has only been in the last year that I’ve seriously read and discussed and thought about radical feminism and its refutation of patriarchy, and with this I have learned how deeply patriarchy has molded my life, externally and internally.

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Patriarchy made me fear being in trouble for being a playful, rambunctious girl who liked to build forts and play games, who wanted everyone to join me.  Patriarchy made me go into my head to survive, go to school and ignore my physical body, become a walking brain.  Patriarchy made me believe that I could accomplish anything if I tried hard enough, without telling me that tenet only applied to boys, without telling me that my few accomplishments came at the price of playing the game of complicity.  Patriarchy made me a low-ranking token in the hierarchy, not only below men, but below most women. Patriarchy did all this and it set me up to be bullied, because it taught me I was “too much” and had to avoid being in trouble, that I had to be quiet and play nice and not complain and try to blend in or I would be sent away; it taught me my survival depended on being invisible.

Patriarchy taught me at a young age that suicide was an option, that if I could not fit in, killing myself was the logical final step.  I thought I learned this in the face of my helplessness and despair in my chaotic family home, but I came to believe I was merely learning the lesson my mother had been taught, who had tried to kill herself, a woman who had had to play the patriarchy game herself to survive, the daughter of an alcoholic father who had killed himself (patriarchy can be hard on men, too).

Every time I am ignored by someone I love, every time I am bullied, every time I am walked through on the street as if I don’t exist, every time I am made to feel invisible and at the same time too much, I feel myself collapse with imbued shame, and the old suicidal thoughts flare up, because if everyone is treating me like I am unwanted and invisible and worthless, then what is the point of my existence? I might as well send myself away.

Radical feminism has taught me that this suicidal thinking is not mine, that it is what patriarchy wants me to think, what it wants me to feel about my life.  Patriarchy wants me out of the way.

Radical feminism has taught me the best response is to refuse to give in, that the best response is to be defiant with anyone who dares to declare me worthless and too much trouble, and to stand my ground firmly and insist on being accepted and respected and granted dignity for exactly who I am, rather than for who I pretend to be or what I try to do to gain a pleased nod.  Radical feminism taught me not to be invisible, which means to speak up for my true self and to speak up for others.

Radical feminism has taught me that some women are as much against me as any man is, and that I cannot assume any woman is my ally, no matter how well-versed she may be in radical feminist theory.  Instead, I have to look to her actions, because I believe the point of radical feminism is putting it into practice:  does she stand up for herself?  does she stand up for me?

Patriarchy is about doing.  It is about the myth of earning your place in the world, that if you try hard enough you will succeed, and if you don’t succeed it is because you aren’t trying hard enough.

Radical feminism is about being.  It is about offering a place of belonging for who you are, not what you do or how you costume yourself.  Radical feminism is about not being punished for asking difficult questions, it is about encouraging energy and curiosity, it is about visibility.

Patriarchy admonishes you for being trouble.

Radical feminism encourages you to cause trouble.

I lived the first fifty-plus years of my life living under patriarchy, working very hard and struggling, and I feel like a failure.  I am alone, I am anxious, I am not financially secure, and I am exhausted from meaningless busyness.

I want to spend the rest of my life living with radical feminism, and to stop feeling I have to earn approval and acceptance and belonging which, under patriarchy, will never be granted. Radical feminism welcomes me to pull up a chair and belong; it welcomes me home.

Patriarchy is impersonal and systemic.  I do not exist.

Radical feminism is personal and individualistic.  I exist.

Patriarchy has tried to kill me.

Radical feminism is saving me.

The Pretenders, Hymn to Her

Coming Saturday: Rebecca Whisnant on Pornography and Humiliation, and Vliet Tiptree Asks About Teh Menz.

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Declaration of War

By Vee Esselar

  • I am a Woman. I will not be re-classified by men who “feel like” women. I will not tolerate being called CIS-woman, biological-woman, genetic-woman, woman-born-woman or female-woman. I will not tolerate being accused of having CIS privilege, obtained illegitimately at the moment of my birth. I will not tolerate being accused of wielding this privilege over men. I will fight back against this misogynistic attack that only seeks to silence me and make me invisible.
  • I am a lesbian. I will not be re-classified by men who “feel like” women. I will not call men who “feel like” women lesbians. I will call them what they are: heterosexual men. I will not put up with being accused of having “mono-sexual privilege” that I wield over men. I will not be shamed and bullied into having sex with men who say they are lesbians and I will call those who try what they are: sexual predators. I will never sign up, line up or shut up about the genocidal assimilation of my lesbian sisters into your transgender cult. I will gather with my sisters wherever and whenever I please and I will not grant you access no matter what woman hating law I am breaking. I will fight back against this misogynistic/homophobic attack that only seeks to silence me and make me invisible.
  • I am a woman. I will not stand for the ridiculous premise that I am trans-misogynist. It is my birthright to speak out loud about any idea or practice that harms women. I will continue to speak out loud about male privilege, male entitlement and male pattern violence. I will continue to expose the real hatred that men direct at women, whether those men happen to “feel like a woman” at the time or not. I will fight back against this misogynistic attack that only seeks to silence me and make me invisible.
  • I am a woman. I reject all notions that there is such a thing as ‘Gender Dysphoria’, female brain, woman feelings, or any other gender based idea, theory or practice. I reject your gender binary straight jacket. I reject your pornographic version of woman and the sexual slavery you promote. I will fight back against this misogynistic attack that only seeks to silence me and make me invisible.
  • I am a woman. That word belongs to me. I get to say what that word means. I will not use the word woman or she to include one man. I will not use the word woman or she to describe one man. I will not ally myself with any man who uses woman and she to describe himself no matter how much of a “good guy” he says he is. I will protect the word woman, and in protecting the word woman, I protect my ability to speak about myself, my experience, my future, my past and the entire history of women. You will not rob me of my ability to know my sisters through language. I will fight back against this misogynistic attack that only seeks to silence me and make me invisible.
  • I am a woman. It is my birthright to speak about my body, my experience, my life using my own words. My vagina is not a front hole any more that your penis is a front tail. I will continue to talk about my period, watch the Vagina Monologues, hear Germaine Greer and all my beloved feminists speak, and call other women my sisters whether you “feel” excluded or not. I will gather with my sisters wherever and whenever I please and I will not grant you access no matter what woman hating law I am breaking. I am not afraid of you. Calling me names will not stop me. Threatening me will not stop me. I will fight back against this misogynistic attack that only seeks to silence me and make me invisible.

I am a woman

And I will defend myself!

http://nomoremsnicefeminist.tumblr.com/

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Alix Dobkin, “Some Boys.”

Coming Soon: Radical Feminism Welcomes Kaye Murdoch Home.

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Gender Burns

Our insistence on turning efforts to achieve good health into a greater moral enterprise means that health also becomes a sharp political stick with which much harm is ultimately done.

– Kathleen Lebesco, “Fat Panic and the New Morality”

Each summer a spate of articles remind us that men refuse to wear sunscreen at higher rates than women do and that this harms the menz. In case you weren’t aware, men ages 15 to 39 are more than twice  as likely to die of melanoma than women in the same age range. The media and doctors are generally smart enough to realize that gender expectations play a role in this phenomenon, but generally not smart enough to realize that this isn’t a case of the big P harming men.

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What these articles are missing is that men’s knee-jerk reaction against sunscreen is part of a larger orientation to life that ultimately protects, not harms them: masculinity. We need to see that men’s dismissal of the need for bodily interventions, their refusal to see the male body as a project, and their avoidance of the medicalization of their bodies is boundary-setting that is granted to them and not to women in this culture.

In other words, the rights to bodily autonomy and bodily integrity are part of the benefits of masculinity, not part of the downsides. The body that is safe, protected from intervention, manipulation and gazes-with-the-power-to-sculpt-flesh is a male body; the male body, defined in opposition to the penetrable female body, is understood to be intact by definition. Pause and let the full range of the word “intact”—reproductive, sexual, and otherwise—resonate.

Yes, in this instance men fare worse in that they die of melanoma more often than women. But men’s actions speak, and what they say is that being a man comes with many many benefits, and that the benefits of maintaining that protective masculinity outweigh the risk of getting skin cancer—just as the benefits of being a smoking, harley-riding dude who “gets” harley-riding women, respect, and adventure simply outweigh the risks of lung cancer and traffic accidents. It is a quality of life issue and men see it that way.

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Whether men refuse sunscreen because of conscious preferences (“I don’t like how it feels on my skin” ) or unconscious ones (“real men don’t worry about things like sunburn”), the fact that they are men means that their refusal is respected. It doesn’t have to be the healthy choice or even the smart choice, it just has to be their choice. And if you accept that gender exists to protect men, you have to accept that on balance men who “do” masculinity will benefit.

Fans of the “patriarchy harms men, too” mantra might say that men are not allowed to show feelings of concern about possible cancer, or not allowed to ever stop taking the stupid risks that ease their anxieties about being “man enough.” But the truth is that an individual man’s choice whether to use sunscreen or not is not particularly fraught; proof of this is that the social repercussions for either using or refusing sunscreen are negligible. For men, sunscreen is not an exquisite mashup of beauty and health mandates that link compliance to social worth. There aren’t campaigns—either health or beauty-based—to coerce men into using it, and wives don’t leave husbands for not taking care of themselves and their skin. They simply outlive them. Life is inherently risky and, in the case of men, we seem to have accepted that. It’s simple: their body, their choice. When it comes to balancing cost and risk for the intact male body, individual men make individualized choices. We don’t always agree with them, but who asked us anyway?

The motivation to “be a man” can look self-destructive, but it protects and maintains the satisfactorily utilitarian relationship men have with their bodies. Men refuse to see their bodies as anything but their own—in sickness and health, stupidity and adventure, right and wrong, unquestionably. Sadly, women’s harmful relationships with their bodies are often depressingly great foils to men’s. If you want to see what is required of a body that is not one’s own, but must seek the approval of others and give the “right” answers when intervention is “requested,” look no further than the feminized female body. “Consent” to femininity is overwhelmingly given because it is the “right answer” under threat of social sanctions. In the absence of those sanctions, who can say what women would choose to do? Constantly checking, re-checking, testing, applying, primping, preparing, posing, weighing, buying, and reappyling, normal women live with a plague called “health and beauty.”

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We don’t moralize about men’s health decisions. We might try to encourage men to use sunscreen, wives might lovingly nag, and doctors might recommend sunscreen in black bottles, but we seem to accept that, ultimately, risk simply cannot be eradicated without cost to quality of life. And as we all know, society cares deeply when men’s quality of life is reduced, even a little bit. After all, “boys will be boys” is code for “males are happiest when allowed to do whatever the fuck they want,” and this law of nature is always put above the dictates of logic, health, and even harm to others.

We need to ask ourselves: are women balancing cost and risk? Are we allowed to do so without being told we are doing something wrong? In discussions about wearing sunscreen I hear women say, there is no reason not to. But what I hear them saying is that, unlike for men, there is no acceptable no. We don’t get the luxury of balance. When it comes to women who are laboring for health and beauty, dieting, beautifying, self-monitoring every 30 seconds and reapplying sunscreen every two hours there is no balance. The patriarchy, doctors, and popular opinion, along with targeted makeup and pharmaceutical industry campaigns, make those decisions for us.

I read a great comment once in a discussion about breast feeding, which asked: “Do we believe that risks to babies and children must be eliminated at any expense, or only if the costs of eliminating these risks can be paid by mothers?” The point is that, when making health decisions balancing risk and cost, who is it that will shoulder the cost factors monumentally into the perception of risk.

Just as people call breast-feeding “free” because women’s labor is understood to be worth nothing, there appears to be no cost involved in avoiding skin cancer with daily, hourly applications. No cost in the routine self-examination and weight-monitoring we are told helps keep us “healthy.” No cost in women submitting to invasive birth control regimes and health exams. I’ve heard plenty of women say “there’s simply no reason not to wear sunscreen every day.” This is a shorter way of saying that women’s labor feels “free” because our quality-of-life costs and intact female bodies are of no value. Society sees it as understandable—if not “smart” or necessarily “recommended”—that men want to avoid having the type of relationship with their bodies that women have with theirs. The requirement to constantly self monitor, tweak, be evaluated and found lacking is seen as “nothing” when women bear it…not so much when it’s men. When its men’s labor and men’s bodies, we can see that society judges there to be something of worth at stake.

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If we position men as the victims here—harmed by the big P— and compliant women as benefactors, then how are we to conceive of non-compliant women: wrinkly old sun-baked women who have clear likes, dislikes, irresponsibilities, desires, and thrills, women who have lived and used their bodies for themselves—not for men, beauty, or abstractly-defined health? If women are seen to have “no reason not to” comply, vitriol will always be reserved for us.

But women should be allowed to take health risks in the way men do. Women should be allowed to choose *NOT* to get invasive (and often unnecessary) medical tests like pap smears or mammograms without being called “irresponsible,” and we’re not. We should be able to choose not to breastfeed with a clear and breezy conscious, but we’re not able to. We should not have pharmaceutical birth control campaigns targeted at us, and we should be allowed to demand that it not fall to us alone to be responsible for where men decide to jizz, just to avoid harm. We should not have the propaganda machines pumping out beauty standards that coerce young girls into obsessing over those standards and using sunscreen and makeup—conveniently in one!—in order to meet them. Not looking at the 77% of all sunscreen ads that appear in beauty magazines for women might just be a risk some women are interested in taking.

I propose that, for once, women take a lesson from masculinity. The healthiest thing we can do is to have resistance—a “no”—be our knee-jerk response to any suggestion that our bodies are not okay as they are, that with just a little tweak here or there our bodies will finally be okay. Interventions on our bodies are not always unnecessary—if I broke my leg, I would go to the hospital— but the point is that we must take time to question why we are on this yellow brick road of constant vigilance and intervention, and why we feel judged and frightened if we step off of it.

As lay people and women, it’s very hard to resist what is labeled as “healthy”—how can anyone be against health? Indeed. We should be suspicious of anything so “obvious” that we can’t imagine anyone not obeying it! I hope that someday women can come to see “health” outside of a moral framework and as something attainable—not as a never-ending project in which we are routinely fearful, locked into an anxiety-fueled vigilance. Sunscreen is neutral, but WHY we use it and they don’t? Not neutral at all.

 

With thanks to A Freudian Nightmare.

Sweet Honey, Ella’s Song

Coming Friday: Vee Esselar declares war, and radical feminism welcomes Kaye Murdoch home.

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Reclaiming Words

By Samantha Berg

One of the earliest feminist blogs I used to post to was hosted by a man. From 2004 through 2006, I contributed many comments to his blog, as did other radical and liberal feminists. Then came the day in 2006 when we all discovered that Barry Deutsch of Amptoons.com sold his blog to pornographers for many thousands of dollars, and more than just radical feminists felt betrayed by his greedy foray into third party prostitution profiteering.

I was recently reminded of those blog posts when asked for details about a conversation between me and Amanda Marcotte  where she said about men who pay for sex: “Gender roles for men make it hard for them to be soft and affectionate and some find it easier to buy that than actually put their reputation as a hardass on the line by seeking love with a real woman. Prostitutes who keep a regular clientele will tell you that a lot of men are more lonely than anything.”

Obviously I found Marcotte’s quote, but in searching for it I also found hundreds of sentences I had contributed in good faith to Amptoons not knowing Deutsch would capitalize on my volunteered writings through third party cyber pimping. Almost ten years later, I am taking back ownership of my writings from an unethical louse of a man.

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Last week it came out that a respected public figure raped his 14 year old babysitter many years ago. The cover of the Willamette Week weekly newspaper calls Goldschmidt “having sex with” the 14 year old, “incomprehensible.” In the back of the same issue is an advertisement which promises to provide “Real Teens! Real Sex!”, meaning it should not be ‘incomprehensible’ to the editors that many adult men rape desire to stick their dicks inside girl child’s bodies.

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I’ve not seen in the 4-5 articles linking porn to Abu Ghraib I’ve read where an author states the incident should be seen “primarily” in relation to porn, just that the similarities should be considered more thoughtfully.

It doesn’t surprise me that so many women immediately thought of pornography when the story broke instead of considering the long military history of torture and sexual abuse during wartime. Perhaps if we had the visual records of black lynchings shoved in our faces with the dailiness pornography is shoved in our faces our thoughts would have gone there first.

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To say you believe in women’s equality but don’t see how that has anything to do with female sexuality being considered a Thing to be bought and sold misses the whole point of why it is called SEXism.
Women aren’t discriminated against because we’re shorter than men or less hairy than men. We are discriminated against because most men look at women and see some things (human beings) they would like to sexually pleasure themselves with instead of seeing women and girls as fully human people with personalities and desires of their own unrelated to wetting his penis.

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Why does a 13 year old prostituted child with no experience command a price 100 times that of a 23 year old with ten years of experience and in what other ‘profession’ does your value decrease the more experienced you are?

Why should men be allowed this form of “entertainment” when it is clearly so very detrimental to the people involved as well as to all male perceptions of all women’s worth? Using prostitutes is a male leisure activity, it is a very destructive one, and I don’t understand arguments that place men’s all holy right to shove their penises in and out of women’s bodily holes over the rights of the UN’s estimated 3-4 millions children, women and men held in sexual slavery and raped repeatedly for profit in a year.

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Chris Hedges, foreign correspondent from the NY Times in Bosnia and other wars and author of the book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning was on KBOO radio last year and he said that within 24 hours of war breaking out in Bosnia pornography sales soared and shelves of pornography were emptied.

You may discount the “if a then b” one-way directional flow of pornography’s effects if you want, and since few things in the world are so clearly unidirectional that would be sensible, but there’s much evidence supporting increased porn usage in militarized cultures (like the modern US) and increased amounts of sexual torture (like genocidal rape) in war, so porn obviously plays some important psychological role in war zones where it’s available and that’s not unconnected to increased sexual violence in war zones.

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No one thinks average, non-raping men in Bosnia bought porn by the truckloads as the war began then became rapists during the war because of it. Why did men’s consumption of misogynist, degrading pornography increase so dramatically as they mentally prepared themselves for the coming destruction and chaos of war? Why did a not-feminist war correspondent feel this point was worth bringing up in a radio interview when speaking of the impact the outbreak of the Bosnian war had on people there?

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Pornography isn’t free speech, it is costly speech manufactured by corporations who market their products aggressively and profit enormously. Missing from the discussion is how the ideas of an oppressed, objectified people whose very bodies are needed to create the ‘speech’ of wealthy men could ever be able to begin to compete with the privileged big boys in this stacked system.

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Almost all porn is about fulfilling women’s pleasure if you stop at “she looks like she’s enjoying it!”, but men have depicted women orgasming from being raped, cut up, spit on, fucked by animals and worse and really it’s about men’s pleasure seeing women acting like animalized dirty whores more than women’s pleasure at doing the sex.

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There’s no need to speak in hypothetical abstracts about the results legalization and decriminalization. Those of us saying legalization does not make ‘sex workers’ more safe aren’t pulling that out of our asses, it’s been demonstrated in the many historical attempts to regulate prostitution and in the more recent legalization trials in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, certain Nevada counties.

AIDS, STD, pregnancies, gang control, child prostitution, street prostitution, violence from pimps and tricks…none of these problems have gone away in legalized places and the research demonstrates that these intrinsic harms are actually exacerbated by legalization.

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We need to stop talking about the benefits of legalizing prostitution like we need to stop talking about trickle-down economics. These theories have been tried many times over the years and they continually fail to produce positive results. If there are women and children in desperate straits, poor, sexually abused and addicted to drugs like almost all prostituted people are, the solution isn’t to find ways to make exploiting women easier for their pimps and tricks so their money and ‘proper management’ trickle down to the people on the bottom rung, it’s to provide direct assistance to those people who need help and give them the help they ask for.

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Cans of tuna come with “dolphin free” labels because tuna-eaters care about dolphins. Movies come with disclaimers that no animals were hurt in the making of the films. Pornography comes with advertising playing up the violence, lack of women’s consent, and vulnerability of youthful “girls girls girls!” (never “women women women!”) Pornographers BRAG about how they fucked that teen virgin bitch’s ass so hard she couldn’t sit for days. It’s as if cans of tuna came with labels saying, “Now with more slaughtered dolphins than ever!”

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I remember watching the movie Clan of the Cave Bear in high school. When I saw the movie I saw Ayla getting raped by a man who hated her and who relished raping her into silenced obedience, but the boys saw a male role model, a man gettin’ some recalcitrant pussy from an uppity blonde bitch.

For months afterwards a group of boys kept making the hand symbol Ayla’s rapist Broud used to command her to submit to his rapes and laughing over how sweet life would be if we bitch classmates would go as easily ass-up when the hand command was issued to us. There was no ambiguity in the plot; it was quite clearly rape. But to those boys it was just pornography, just sex as most men would have sex with women be, on demand and without any backtalk, like the sex of prostitution.

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Linda Boreman said she was sometimes forced at gunpoint to submit to her rapes, and thanks to a well-funded pr campaign calling her a lying whore fronted by women on the porn biz payroll she isn’t believed, but there are still many women, like these for instance, who are raped to make pornographic products men sell to other men to accumulate gobs of money.

These are not unusual, isolated rape events in the making of pornography but the understandable outcome of capitalism applied to sex as men demand it and are willing to pay for it. Men’s demand for 50 man gangbangs is far greater than the number of women willing to consent to it. The rapes of some number of pornstituted women and girls are necessary to sustain the multi-billion dollar pornography industries as they have exponentially expanded the past few years and subsequently evolved to include more grotesquely vicious woman-hating content.

But there’s a damnable wall of silence surrounding what it takes to make the pornography being consumed so greedily, a silence especially infuriating among liberals who I’d like to think would apply criticisms of racism, sexism and capitalism to pornography if they were people of integrity.

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There’s a vile trend in popular liberal media calling young women who say they were raped liars, a trend that has appeared recently in such as liberal media as The Nation, Counterpunch, and Clamor Magazine. What I see in this is the burning need to defend men’s rights to unlimited sexual access to women’s bodies in pornography and prostitution taking precedence over women’s human rights, and it makes me angry.

We women are just supposed to accept that being a whore is the new, progressive, feminist path to female empowerment and equality, and I am frightened for the girls and women being told this lie.

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The overwhelmingly male consumer choice for pornography is not only not against the pain, suffering and exploitation of women, these are the most desirable features of the most profitable, widespread pornography. The pain and humiliation of women is the main point, not an accidental byproduct as it is with sweatshop labor or Wal-Mart or the production of non-pornography goods.

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Women accepting pornography as it used to be known meant men didn’t want it that way anymore because if women like something, men stop liking it. So they (men) moved to more anal thinking correctly that most women didn’t like it, but then some women adapted to that too and now anal isn’t edgy anymore, edgy in porn really meaning “That which men like and women don’t, hence making it good and worthwhile”. Women got used to facials and now bukkake proliferates and, again, the verbal abuse has increased because there’s only so many things you can do to bodies but the patriarchy can always creatively concoct new ways to speak about hating women. Women are never going to get to the top of the pornography heap because anytime they come close men move the heap to keep it untainted by the touch of femaleness.

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Both pornography actors and non-porn actors act out sexual scenes, but non-porn actors are not placed daily in situations where their physical and mental health are put at severe risk. Porn actors come from populations with backgrounds much more similar to prostitutes than actresses, and a European study a few years back found porn actors had 6 times the suicide rate of non-porn actors. There is no billion-dollar market in enslaved non-pornographic actresses.

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Pornography production is not analogous to having a lot of casual sex. The sheer numbers of partners involved gets astronomical when you consider the other ‘pornstitutes’ have also had a tremendous number of prostituted sex partners in the same highly unnatural conditions of pornography production. Lack of condoms or dental dams, shaving & waxing that leaves tiny but bloody cuts, doing and redoing uncomfortable scenes until rubbed raw, the general brutality against women’s genitals modern pornography male consumers demand of pornography and more contribute to an undeniably toxic environment I would never compare to the most casual of casual sex-havers.

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I have vociferously questioned the “sex positive” liberals who think what’s best for women and children enslaved in SE Asian brothels is an unlimited supply of condoms, antibiotics, abortions and HIV tests so they can know shortly after contracting the disease that they’re now out of a “job” and they’re going to die painfully.

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I’ve been told by “sex positive” liberals that every study ever done on prostitution is wrong because they have friends who like being sex workers. I’ve been told most prostituted women just want the freedom to keep being whores on their own terms. I’ve been told it’s easier to find and speak with rape victims, drug addicts and trafficked teens than unraped, healthy, stable adult sex workers. I’ve been told pornographers don’t have as much money as “academic feminists” to conduct studies determining the general welfare of the prostitutes they use.

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Sometimes I want to shout à la Charlton Heston at pornography users, “Pornography is people! It’s people!”

Helen Reddy, “I Am Woman”

Coming Soon: A Freudian Nightmare Takes a Look at Health Risks.

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What We Can Be: The Necessity of Women’s Spaces

All-woman groups, meetings, projects seem to be great things for causing controversy and confrontation.” – Marilyn Frye

I am with another lesbian feminist on a flight bound to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to attend the 40th, and apparently the last, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. We are full of joy and excitement at the prospect of our ‘week in the woods’ with thousands of women, mostly lesbians, and we are hoping to connect with many other radical lesbian feminists there – some of whom we have the pleasure of knowing already, and many of whom we do not. As a lesbian feminist committed to women-only spaces but nonetheless a festie virgin, I am in awe at the achievement of the women who have created, and recreated, and recreated, and Recreated this space over decades. I know that I have barely begun to comprehend the nature and scale of that achievement.

On the flight, I read over the Terms of Reference of a new government inquiry that has the potential to make any such women-only gatherings in my own country infinitely more difficult.

Also on the flight, I read in the newspaper about a man who has just killed his mother-in-law in a horrifying supposed ‘revenge’ attack against his former wife, who speaks of the devastation he has brought upon her family, and her terrible regret at marrying him. Similar stories are, of course, a daily feature in our news media.

A womyn’s music festival that has been besieged over years by transgender activists.

A new government inquiry on ‘transgender equality’.

The ongoing, everyday reality of men’s violence against women.

Do we see connections between these things?

In the face of enduring and entrenched systems of  male domination and unrelenting levels of male violence against women and girls – often perpetrated against those who with whom they are in close or intimate relationships – there is one glaringly obvious thing that women need to do for our survival: GET AWAY FROM MEN.

This separation can take many forms, from attending a women’s group to political lesbianism and separatism, but time spent away from men is essential for women’s survival. Creating women-only spaces, where women can begin to experience a sense of freedom, listen to and value other women, and start to think clearly about our oppression is the absolutely essential first step towards women’s liberation. Such spaces are a minimum requirement for the development of a feminist consciousness. Yet at a time when we have never needed women’s spaces more urgently, they are under attack in alarming and unprecedented ways.

While men’s intolerance of autonomous women’s spaces is nothing new, the rise of transgenderism has meant that male attacks on our spaces have manifested in new and hitherto quite unimagined forms, even gaining legal status in many jurisdictions.

One of the most disturbing things about the transgender assault on women’s spaces is the sympathy that such attacks receive from many feminists. Aggressive intrusion into our spaces is something that very few feminists appear willing to resist – on the contrary, many are its cheerleaders. Many collude with the antifeminist pretence that men are women if they say they are. Others privately understand the antifeminist nature of this assault, but maintain a public silence. Very, very few are willing to create spaces that are genuinely women-only, or to defend those of us who do. Indeed, it seems that at this point in time, very few feminists value or  understand the necessity of such spaces. In the UK, for example, much feminist organising places great importance on engaging and involving men, and most student feminist societies include men. While there is thankfully a growing radical feminist movement in the UK, the mainstream feminist landscape is characterised by an eagerness to include men, at the expense of creating autonomous women’s spaces and at the expense of any chance of women developing a feminist consciousness.

For those of us who understand the necessity of women-only organising and are steadfast in our commitment to it, it is something of an education to be on the receiving end of vilification, threats and demonisation from the trans lobby, while our sisters stand silently by.

In a situation where you might expect a mighty roar, there is deafening silence.

This cannot go on.

Without women’s spaces, there is no women’s movement: there  is no women’s culture, there is no women’s community. There is certainly no lesbian culture or community. And, as has been observed, lesbians are the canaries in the coalmine here: what happens to us is what will happen to all women.

The future for women in such a scenario is unconscionable.

On the 40th anniversary of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I want to thank all the sisters who struggle to create and maintain women’s spaces in the face of the transgender assault and, agonisingly, the silence or worse of other feminists. You must never become our past. You – we – must be our present, and we must be our future.

Night Stage1

Building the Night Stage at MichFest, 2006

We’ll not sit with our oppressors,
We will not break bread with men.
Not consort with our aggressors,
No way he’s a lesbian!
Stand together, in resistance,
Never sell our sisters out!
Never sell our sisters out.

Every day, assailed and harassed,
Public space is not our own
No respite from male aggression
In the street, at work, at home.
Women’s spaces, women’s spaces
Are a minimum demand!
Are a minimum demand.

We’ll not know the taste of freedom
With men in proximity.
In the company of womyn
Let us see what we can be.
Loving womyn, loving womyn,
We will see what we can be!
We will see what we can be.

Julia Long is a radical lesbian feminist and the author of Anti-Porn: The Resurgence of Anti-Pornography Feminism.

Tracy Chapman, Stand By Me

Coming Thursday: Samantha Berg Smashes Porn and A Freudian Nightmare Talks Health Risks

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Please, if You Love Lesbians and Other Females, Think About This….

By Bev Jo

1. Do you know about the increasing demand to accept men as Lesbians, thereby supporting men in invading our last female only space, driving away women who do not feel safe with them there — women who are perhaps alone and isolated and needing safe women’s community?

2. If you feel angry or upset at being asked this, or unable to think clearly for fear that you are being “transphobic” or “politically incorrect,” can you consider that you are being subjected to cult rules which forbid independent thinking and feeling?

3. Did you know that 80% of the men who claim to be women have had no surgery and are quite capable of raping women, and that the numbers of women raped by these men are increasing?

4. Are you aware that many of these men refer to their “lady penises” or “six inch clitorises?”

5. Did you know that most of these men are obsessed with “Lesbian” porn, made by men, for men?

6. Did you know that 90% of men claiming to be women are “autogynephilic”– meaning they are “aroused” by wearing the exposing clothes, makeup, high heels, etc. that men demand women wear, and many of them masturbate while wearing “women’s” clothing? (Real women do not do this.)

7. Do you know that many of these men demand Lesbians have sex with them and call those of us who refuse “transphobic”? Do you agree with this? If not, and if you are outraged and concerned, do you feel pressured to ignore your reasonable feelings?

8. Since when have Lesbians accused other Lesbians of being “bigots” or “phobic” for daring to say no to men?” Have you considered for a moment — beyond the name-calling and guilt-tripping — that these ARE men who have found a clever way to get access to Lesbians?

9. Do you know that most women who have publicly tried to defend women only space get rape, mutilation, and death threats from these men? Yet we who have tried to protect our Lesbian communities (some of us for more than 40 years) are being asked to pay reparations on behalf of these men, in spite of the fact that they have threatened us and that men make far more money than most Lesbians could ever hope to have.

10. Did you know that many of these men have previously stalked and assaulted women?

11. Do you know that men appropriating female identity are more violent than other men and are changing the statistics on violence by “women?” Why are Lesbians being asked to be outraged on behalf of the violence that men aim at men claiming to be women, ignoring that those same men are threatening and attacking women? Asking women to be especially concerned about male-on-male violence ignores that women are the primary victims of male violence.

12. Have you witnessed any of these men touching, grabbing, making obscene comments or otherwise doing things to Lesbians against our will, yet felt pressured to ignore those assaults?

13. Do you realize that the “transgender” phenomenon has become big business for psychologists, surgeons, drug companies, etc., and that an increasing number of young children who are not happy with being forced into roles that patriarchy demands children obey (whether it’s little girls being forced into dresses and painful shoes, or little boys forced to fit male roles) are being considered “transgender” and started on irrevocable and dangerous hormones and even surgery before puberty?

14. Do you know that “sex change” surgery and hormones do not begin to approximate a female body or mind or spirit? Aren’t women far more than castrated men?

15. Do you know that many of the men claiming to be women also claim to be better women than us, and that they refer to us, and demand we identify ourselves with, yet one more “c” word: “cis?”

16. Do you know that adult men claiming to be women have won the right to expose themselves in school girls’ locker rooms and to play on girls’ sports teams?

17. Do you know that some men who have killed women are demanding that the government pay for their “sex change” and transfer them to women’s prisons?

18. We are told that “transgender” politics are progressive, yet they are in actuality right wing, enforcing gender roles that harm girls and women. In fundamentalist Iran, Lesbians and Gay men are executed, but the government pays for “sex changes.”

19. If you feel that no one has the right to tell someone they cannot be who they feel they are, do you agree with the able-bodied man who claims to be a “trans-paraplegic Lesbian?” (This man’s story is classic “trans” cult, including fondling his disabled aunt’s leg braces as a boy.) He goes to his local Dyke March in a wheelchair with a sign saying “Differently-Abled Dyke,” and makes his wheelchair fall over to get attention. He has no intention of truly becoming paraplegic, just as most “transwomen” have no intention of getting surgery.

20. Does believing that people have the right to identify however they want include white men appropriating the identity of people oppressed by racism? (Some of the completely European-descent men identifying as “transwomen” also say they are “trans-racial,” and have tried to get into positions of power in those communities they oppress, just as they have taken over many Lesbian/women’s organizations, including women’s studies classes.)

21. If you are outraged at the idea of “trans-racial” and “trans-disabled” identity appropriation, why would you accept that this should be done to Lesbians and other women?

22. Would you agree that people who have surgery to resemble cats or reptiles should be accepted as those animals? Trans politics and ideology say that you should.

23. Some women claim that these extremes are rare, mentally ill men who are not at all representative of real “transwomen.” Yet if you read any men posing as women online, you will see how they obviously have no idea what a real Lesbian or woman is. If you ever say no to these men, you will quickly find out how very male they are.

24. Why do the lives of Lesbians count for so little that men can claim to be us and then proceed to re-write our Lesbian history, get into power positions in our beleaguered Lesbian communities, and destroy what little we have left? Why do women feel flattered by or protective of these men instead of being protective of the Lesbians and women they are harming?

25. Do you realize that if you support these men to destroy our last female only spaces, you are simply supporting men against women?

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See my blog for links that explain more: https://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com

Kathy Fire, Mother Rage

Coming Soon: Julia Long gives a mighty roar for women’s spaces.

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