#WomenWrites: on prostitution, white supremacy, radical feminism, and Joss Whedon

Legalise prostitution? We are being asked to accept industrialised sexual exploitation, by @KatBanyard

… For all the ways it is marketed, the sex trade boils down to a very simple product concept: a person (usually a man) can pay to sexually access the body of someone (usually a woman), who does not freely want to have sex with him. He knows that’s the case – otherwise he wouldn’t have to pay her to be there. The money isn’t coincidence, it’s coercion. And we have a term for that: sexual abuse. Getting governments to facilitate a commercial market in sexual exploitation therefore requires masking it with myths such as: that demand is inevitable; that paying for sex is a consumer transaction, not abuse; that pornography is mere “fantasy” and that decriminalising the entire trade, pimping and brothel keeping included, helps keep women safe. …

“Who is the Ultimate Traitor? On Patriotism and White Supremacy”, by Crystal M. Fleming, Ph.D.

Among centrist Democrats and even some progressives, the argument is frequently being made that confederate statues should be condemned because confederates were “traitors”. While this might seem like a compelling argument, it very quickly becomes troublesome for the anti-racist. It is evident that throughout history, people who opposed racism (from anti-slavery agitators to the Black Panthers to the relatively moderate Martin Luther King Jr.) have been framed as traitorous, unpatriotic and even treated like domestic terrorists by the government of the United States. It is widely known that the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, directly referred to Martin Luther King as an “enemy of the state” and, under Obama’s presidency, the same FBI targeted peaceful activists associated with the Movement for Black Lives—and refused to label white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof a white supremacist terrorist. It should be noted that Barack Obama—the same man who insisted, against all empirical evidence, that racism is not “endemic” to the United States—also declined to acknowledge the fact that Roof was, indeed, a domestic terrorist. …

HOW I ENDED UP HERE, at Radically a Woman

As it is the case with many younger radical and gender critical feminists, I haven’t always been into such politics. I spent years on the opposite side. I’m familiar with liberal feminist and trans activist terminology, from DFAB to demi girl – although I’m sure dozens of new terms have emerged since I left those circles around Summer 2016 – so no trans activist argument is strange to me. That’s something trans activists and liberal feminists tend to forget (or knowingly ignore) when they argue with us or spread whatever rumours about us; our disagreement isn’t based on ignorance, it’s based on thorough understanding. …

Calling women ‘non-men’ isn’t inclusive, it’s sexism straight from ancient history  via @FeministCurrent

Last month, Teen Vogue published a how-to article on anal sex that defined males and females as “prostate owners” and “non-prostate owners,” respectively. The magazine may have thought that these terms were more appropriate for an audience that includes people who identify as transgender or non-binary, and who therefore don’t feel the terms “male” and “female” apply.

However, in their efforts to be inclusive, the magazine tacitly perpetuated a sexist, patriarchal perspective as old as Aristotle: that women are a type of “non-man” rather than a distinct type of human. …

Patriarchy or Male Supremacy? at Liberation is Life

Meeting Ground On Line has recently reprinted a short 1993 piece by Carol Hanisch on what is described as the unfortunate shift by feminism, from describing our current system as a ‘male supremacy’, to describing it as ‘patriarchy’.

As the Editor’s Note on the reprint remarks:

Patriarchy has all but replaced male supremacy and sexism as the preferred word for the system of discrimination and multi-faceted oppression that women face. The term patriarchy wasn’t used by most 1960s pioneers of the Women’s Liberation Movement and only came into popular usage as those founders were disappeared from view. The liberal and academic takeover of women’s liberation by women with access to the press and money led to the dropping of “liberation” from the name of our movement and to the rise of the word patriarchy to describe what is wrong with “the system” or “society”. Some claim it more accurately blames the system rather than individual men. We think it lets the class of men off the hook and is not applicable to current late capitalist conditions. The short piece reprinted here is an earlier argument against blaming a patriarchy for women’s oppression.

Joss Whedon and the Theater of Allyship, by Rebecca Barrett-Fox

Joss Whedon took a risk that reeks of male entitlement: to claim feminism but not give up his abusive behavior toward women. Maybe he’s a faux-feminist or a woke misogynist. Maybe he’s a liar who wanted to cash in on feminism. Maybe he can’t make the connection between the political and the personal. Maybe he’s doing what more feminist-identifying men would do if they were given the opportunity. The fact that he decided to speak like a feminist and act like a dirtbag suggests to me that he wanted the benefits of both—for him to be celebrated by women and also for him to have power over them. Like lots of men, he sees the advantages that feminism has for him, but he doesn’t want to give up the perks of sexism. It’s rather nice to have the tools of sexism—firing women for getting pregnant, marital infidelity—in your toolbox, just in case you might want to use them one day.

Le féminisme radical et l’accusation d’essentialisme.

My article Radical Feminism and the Accusation of Gender Essentialism has been translated into French. Thank you to TradFem for the translation.

(Première version d’un article qui a été publié dans la revue Feminist Times en avril 2014)

La critique la plus courante adressée à la théorie féministe radicale veut que nous soyons « essentialistes » parce que nous croyons que l’oppression des femmes, en tant que classe, se fonde sur les réalités biologiques de nos corps. L’hypothèse selon laquelle les féministes radicales seraient essentialistes est basée sur une incompréhension de la théorie féministe radicale, issue de la définition du mot « radicale » lui-même. Le terme « radicale » désigne la racine ou l’origine. Notre féminisme est radical dans la mesure où il situe la racine de l’oppression des femmes dans les réalités biologiques de nos corps (le sexe) et vise à libérer les femmes en éradiquant les structures sociales, les pratiques culturelles et les lois basées sur l’infériorité des femmes aux hommes. Le féminisme radical conteste toutes les relations de pouvoir qui existent dans le patriarcat, y compris le capitalisme, l’impérialisme, le racisme, l’oppression de classe, l’homophobie et même l’institution de la mode et de la beauté.

Les féministes radicales ne croient pas en l’existence de caractéristiques qui soient exclusivement masculines ou exclusivement féminines. Les femmes ne sont pas naturellement plus nourrissantes que les hommes, et eux ne sont pas meilleurs en mathématiques. Le genre n’est pas fonction de notre biologie. C’est une construction sociale créée pour maintenir des hiérarchies de pouvoir inégal. L’amalgame entre le sexe et le genre est un autre malentendu commun au sujet de la théorie féministe radicale. Le sexe est la réalité de votre corps sans qu’y soient liées des caractéristiques négatives ou positives. Le genre est une construction sociale qui privilégie les hommes/la masculinité en regard des femmes/de la féminité. Le féminisme radical est accusé d’essentialisme parce que nous reconnaissons ces hiérarchies de pouvoir et cherchons à les détruire. Nous ne croyons pas, comme on le suggère souvent, que ces hiérarchies sont naturelles. Il faut voir là une tactique de censure à notre égard. …

 

You can find the full text in French here. 

Radical Feminism and the Accusation of Gender Essentialism

(This is an early draft of an article that was published in the Feminist Times)

 

The most common criticism of radical feminist theory is that we are gender essentialist because we believe that women’s oppression, as a class, is because of the biological realities of our bodies. The assumption that radical feminists are essentialist is based on a misunderstanding of radical feminist theory, which starts from the definition of “radical” itself. The term “radical” refers to the root or the origin. It is radical insofar as it contextualises the root of women’s oppression in the biological realities of our bodies (sex) and seeks the liberation of women through the eradication of social structures, cultural practises and laws that are predicated on women’s inferiority to men. Radical feminism challenges all relationships of power that exist within the Patriarchy including capitalism, imperialism, racism, classism, homophobia and even the fashion-beauty complex.

Radical feminists do not believe that there are characteristics that are uniquely male or uniquely female. Women are not naturally more nurturing than men and men are not better at math. Gender is not a function of our biology. It is a social construct created to maintain unequal power hierarchies. The conflation of sex with gender is another common misunderstanding of radical feminist theory. Sex is the reality of your body with no negative or positive characteristics attached to it. Gender is a social construct that privileges men/ masculinity above women/ femininity. Radical feminism is accused of gender essentialism because we recognise these power hierarchies and seek to destroy them. We do not, as frequently suggested, believe these are natural. It is a silencing tactic.

Women’s oppression as a class is built on two interconnected constructs: reproductive capability and sexual capability. Gender is created to grant men control over women’s reproductive and sexual labour in order for men to profit from this labour: whether this be unpaid labour within the house, in public spaces and childbearing/ rearing. Or, in the words of Gerda Lerner in The Creation of Patriarchy, the commodification of women’s sexual and reproductive capacities is the foundation of the creation of private property and a class-based society. Without the commodification of women’s labour, there would be no unequal hierarchy of power between men and women fundamental to the creation and continuation of the Capitalist-Patriarchy.

When radical feminists use this language of reproductive and sexual capability, we are derided for failing to include women who cannot get pregnant or who do/ do not experience sexual violence. Radical feminism is not about the individual but rather the oppression of women as a class in the Marxist sense of the term. Rape is used as a weapon to silence women as a class. It does not require every woman to be raped to function as a punishment. The threat therein is enough. Equally, the infertility of an individual woman does not negate the fact that her oppression is based on the assumed potential (and desire) for pregnancy, which is best seen in discussions of women’s employment.

There are countless studies that discuss men’s refusal to hire women during “child-bearing” years despite not knowing whether or not that individual woman can conceive or carry a foetus to term (or the fact that it’s illegal to discriminate against women for pregnancy in the first place). It is the potential for pregnancy, which is used as a way of controlling women’s labour: keeping women in low-paying jobs and maintaining the glass ceiling. Constructing women as “nurturers” maintains the systemic oppression of women and retains wealth and power within men as a class.

Just this week, New Hampshire state Rep. Will Infantine (R) has stated that women deserve to be paid less than men because men work harder. The Equal Pay has existed since 1970 and yet women are still consistently paid less than men based on gendered assumptions about the value of women’s work. This is without investigating the intersections of racism, classism and misogyny, which result in women of colour being paid substantially less than white women for similar work.

Even something as basic as a company dress code is gendered to mark women as otherHarrods requires women staff members to wear make-up – a fact that became public when former employee Melanie Starkcomplained to the press about being hounded out of her job. British Airways requires all new recruits to wear skirts because women cannot be expected to look professional whilst handing out meals and pillows in trousers. High heels are frequently required as part of a ‘professional’appearance for women despite the fact that they cause permanent damage to women’s feet and lower limbs.

Women working in the service industry are frequently required to wear clothing that accentuates external markers of sex, particularly their breasts. On the other hand, breasts displayed for the purpose of feeding an infant are considered a disgrace to basic human decency. Sexual harassment is endemic, particularly in the workplace, yet women are punished if they do not attend work in clothing that is considered “acceptable” for the male gaze. The use of women’s bodies to sell products further institutionalises the construction of women as object.

In the UK, two women a week are murdered by former or current partners. Male violence is a major cause of substance misuse, self-harm, and homelessness in women. We know that women are the vast majority of victims of domestic and sexual violence and abuse. And, we know that men are the majority of perpetrators, yet we talk about “gender-based violence” as if men and women were equally perpetrators and victims. Radical feminist theory requires naming the perpetrator because it requires understanding and challenging hyper-masculinity within our culture which results in violence against women, children and other men.

If radical feminists were truly gender essentialists, we would believe that women deserve to be paid less than men. We would support hiring policies that privilege men. We would believe that women’s value is based entirely on their fuckability and childbearing/rearing. If radical feminists were gender essentialists, we would believe that men commit violence because they are born that way. Radical feminists are accused of gender essentialism because we recognise the oppressive structures of our world and seek to dismantle them. It is our direct challenge to hegemonic masculinity and control of the world’s resources (including human) that makes us a target of accusations like gender essentialism, which have no bearing in reality.

Radical feminism does not believe there are male/ female brains or that there are characteristics and behaviours that are innately male/ female. We believe that socialisation creates gender with the express purpose of maintaining current power structures. And, this is why radical feminism is so dangerous to the Capitalist-Patriarchy: we seek to destroy rather fiddle with the margins.

 

The problem is the capitalist-patriarchy socialising boys to be aggressive

(Originally published at Feminist Times)

The most common criticism of radical feminist theory is that we are gender essentialist because we believe that women’s oppression, as a class, is because of the biological realities of our bodies. Radical feminists define sex as the physical body, whilst gender is a social construct. It is not a function of our biology. It is the consequence of being labelled male/female at birth and assigned to the oppressor/sex class. The minute genetic differences are not reflected in the reality of women’s lived experiences. Gender is the coercive process of socialisation built upon a material reality that constructs women as a subordinate class to men. As such, radical feminists do not want to queer gender or create a spectrum of gendered identities; we want to end the hierarchical power structure that privileges men as a class at the expense of women’s health and safety.

This assumption is based on a misunderstanding of radical feminist theory, that starts from the definition of “radical” itself, which refers to the root or the origin: that is to say, the oppression of women by men (The Patriarchy). It is radical insofar as it contextualises the root of women’s oppression in the biological realities of our bodies (sex) and seeks the liberation of women through the eradication of social structures, cultural practises and laws that are predicated on women’s inferiority to men (gender).

Radical feminism challenges all relationships of power that exist within the Patriarchy including capitalism, imperialism, racism, classism, homophobia and even the fashion-beauty complex because they are harmful to everyone: female, male, intersex and trans*. As with all social justice movements, radical feminism is far from perfect. No movement can exist within a White Supremacist culture without (re)creating racist, homophobic, disablist, colonialist and classist power structures. What makes radical feminism different is its focus on women as a class.

Radical feminists do not believe there are any innate gender differences, or in the existence of male/female brains. Women are not naturally more nurturing than men and men are not better at maths and reading maps. Men are only “men” insofar as male humans are socialised into specific characteristics that we label male, such as intelligence, aggression, and violence and woman are “woman” because we are socialised into believing that we are more nurturing, empathetic, and caring than men.

Women’s oppression as a class is built on two interconnected constructs: reproductive capability and sexual capability. In the words of Gerda Lerner in The Creation of Patriarchy, the commodification of women’s sexual and reproductive capacities is the foundation of the creation of private property and a class-based society. Without the commodification of women’s labour there would be no unequal hierarchy of power between men and women, fundamental to the creation and continuation of the Capitalist-Patriarchy, and, therefore, no need for gender as a social construct.

Radical feminism recognises the multiple oppressions of individual women, whilst recognising the oppression of women as a class in the Marxist sense of the term. Rape does not require every woman to be raped to function as a punishment and a deterrent from speaking out. The threat therein is enough. Equally, the infertility of an individual woman does not negate the fact that her oppression is based on the assumed potential (and desire) for pregnancy, which is best seen in discussions of women’s employmentand men’s refusal to hire women during “child-bearing” years due to the potential for pregnancy, which is used as a way of controlling women’s labour: keeping women in low-paying jobs and maintaining the glass ceiling. Constructing women as “nurturers” maintains the systemic oppression of women and retains wealth and power within men as a class.

Even something as basic as a company dress code is gendered to mark women as other. Women working in the service industry are frequently required to wear clothing and high heels that accentuate external markers of sex. Sexual harassment is endemic, particularly in the workplace, yet women are punished if they do not attend work in clothing that is considered “acceptable” for the male gaze. The use of women’s bodies to sell products further institutionalises the construction of women as object.

There is a shared girlhood in a culture that privileges boys, coercively constructs women’s sexuality and punishes girls who try to live outside gendered norms. The research of Dale Spender, and even Margaret Atwood, dating back to the 1980s has made it very clear that young girls are socialised to be quiet, meek and unconfident. Boys, on the other hand, are socialised to believe that everything they say and do is important: by parents and teachers, by a culture which believes that no young boy would ever want to watch a film or read a book about girls or written by a woman. Shared girlhood is differentiated by race, class, faith and sexuality, but, fundamentally, all girls are raised in a culture which actively harms them.

Radical feminists are accused of gender essentialism because we recognise the oppressive structures of our world and seek to dismantle them. We acknowledge the sex of the vast majority of perpetrators of violence. We do so by creating women-only spaces so that women can share stories in the knowledge that other women will listen. This is in direct contrast to every other public and private space that women and young girls live in. Sometimes these spaces are trans-inclusive, like A Room of our Own the blogging network I created for feminists and womanists. Sometimes these spaces will need to be for women who are FAAB only or trans* women only, just as it is absolutely necessary to have black-women only spaces and lesbian women-only spaces.

There is a need for all of these spaces because socialisation is a very powerful tool. Being raised male in a patriarchal white supremacist culture is very different to being raised female with the accompanying sexual harassment, trauma and oppression. The exclusion of trans* women from some spaces is to support traumatised women who can be triggered by being in the same space as someone who was socialised male growing up. This does not mean that an individual trans* woman is a danger, but rather a recognition that gendered violence exists and that trauma is complicated.

It is our direct challenge to hegemonic masculinity and control of the world’s resources (including human) that makes radical feminism a target of accusations like gender essentialism. We recognise the importance in biological sex because of the way girls and boys are socialised to believe that boys are better than girls. As long as we live in a capitalist-patriarchy where boys are socialised to believe that aggression and anger are acceptable behaviour, women and girls will need the right to access women-only spaces however they define them.

– See more at: http://www.feministtimes.com/the-problem-is-capitalist-patriarchy-socialising-boys-to-be-aggressive-not-radical-feminism/#sthash.dTFaIOjm.dpuf

The Incompatibility of Radical Feminism and Capitalism

I am a radical feminist. Radical feminism fights for the liberation of all women from male domination and oppression. The term radical refers to the root of women’s oppression which lies in the creation of patriarchy. Or, as Debbie Cameron and Joan Scanlon write:

radical feminism is radical because it challenges all relationships of power, including extreme forms such as male violence and the sex industry … Instead of tinkering around the edges of the question of gender, radical feminism addresses the structural problem which underlies it.

We do not use the term patriarchy to refer to the rule of the father but rather the systemic oppression and subordination of women rooted in the “appropriation by men of women’s sexual and reproductive capacity” which, as Gerda Lerner states predates the formation of a class society and the concept of private property but it is nonetheless now inseparable from capitalism. Control of women’s potential capacity for reproduction and sex(uality) has been commidified and politicised with the creation of the state

When radical feminists use the term sex, we are referring to the biological realities of female, male and intersex bodies. We use gender to refer to the social constructions and stereotypes placed on bodies which are culturally and historically contextualised. Gender is a harmful social construct that operates as a system of oppression through the unequal power relationship between men and women: and within the categories of male/female when referencing race, sexuality, class, faith etc. Gender is harmful because it takes the simple biological reality of women’s potential reproductive capabilities to deny women access to public spaces and, therefore, power. Gender creates categories of masculinity and femininity and claims them as real despite the fact that they vary widely in definition across cultures and history. It also eroticises the power differential between men and women rendering women as a “sex class”.

The patriarchy predates capitalism but they are now intertwined so that we cannot dismantle the patriarchy without fundamentally deconstructing capitalism, or, more simply, eradicating it completely. As such, radical feminism and capitalism are inherently incompatible. After all, when the stock phrase “equality under the law” is used, radical feminists ask: equal to whom? What group of men do women want to be equal to when wealth and power are located within a very small group of mostly white men.  This power is maintained through the threat of and the actuality of violence whether this is violence within the home or sanctioned by the state. When

What we don’t do is adequately contextualise male violence within the broader framework of control of women’s reproductive and sexual capacity. The media occasionally covers the mass rape of women in the Congo yet consistently fails to mention that the war in the Congo is caused by capitalism and consumerism.[4] We artificially separate the economic reasons for war from the human cost of those wars.

Human trafficking, for sexual, domestic and labour slavery, is one of the largest industries in the world and is intimately tied in with trafficking of illegal substances and arms.  We allow children to work in sweatshops earning less than a subsistence wage so we can change our wardrobe every 3 months and have a new mobile phone every 12 months. We simply fail to discuss the reality that capitalism requires poverty, racism, misogyny and classism to exist. This is antithetical to radical feminism.

The Equal Pay Act has existed since 1970 and women still earn 15% less than men.  Women of colour continue to be paid less than white women for similar work. Women still do the majority of unpaid work including childcare, housework, caring for elderly relatives or those with disabilities, and the organising of family life. This work is not counted when we assess women’s economic output despite the fact that the unpaid labour of women is worth tens of billions of dollars annually. This is male economic violence against women: both within the family and by the state. It maintains women’s oppression through poverty.

We all know the statistics on domestic and sexual violence: we know that 1 in 4 women in the UK will experience domestic violence from a male partner during their life. We know that 2 women a week are murdered by their current or former partner, yet we don’t talk about the consequences of male economic violence against women and children which starts with women’s unpaid labour.

Women’s Aid states that the financial cost of domestic violence in the UK, in which women are the majority of victims, is 23 billion dollars. According to the charity Gingerbread, only 38% of single parents receive child maintenance. Despite the fact that children in single parent households are twice as likely to live in poverty, the government has seen fit to dismantle the Child Support Agency, which was hardly fit for purpose to start with, and replace it with an agency that will charge people to use it.

The dismantling of the welfare state in the UK has disproportionately affected women pushing more women and their children into poverty. According to the Fawcett society:

(w)omen are more likely to be employed in low paid, part-time work, more likely to head a single parent household, likely to have less financial assets and more likely to live in poverty, especially in older age.

Women are more dependent on state benefits than men. In their roles as carers, women are more likely to be impacted by cuts to the NHS, education and social services, particularly if they or their children are disabled.

If we look globally, more than 780 million people live without access to clean water and 2.5 billion live without adequate sanitation. In the US, 1 in 3 women live in poverty. The UN estimates that 80% of female workers in sub-saharan Africa and South Asia are in vulnerable employment.

These are the consequences of capitalism that is predicated on racism, poverty and misogyny. We cannot liberate women from male domination as long as our economic and political power requires many women to live in poverty without access to education, clean water, health care, and nutrition. This is why radical feminism and capitalism are incompatible.

Below are links to research into poverty and women’s rights.

Prostitution, Sexual Slavery and the Sex Industry:

Radical feminism opposes the legalisation of prostitution and seeks to end what is commonly referred to as the “sex industry”. The global sex industry uses women’s poverty and institutionalises and normalises violence against women, racism, and the colonisation of women’s bodies. Aboriginal women in Canada and the US are disproportionately represented in prostitution, poverty and prison. Women involved in the sex industry, from prostitution to lap dancing clubs, have higher rates of PTSD than other groups of women as well as higher rates of substance misuse and histories of sexual violence.

Prostitution, trafficking for sexual slavery and the legal forms of the global sex industry is worth billions of dollars and the vast majority of this money rests in the hands of men. Men control the trade in the bodies of women and childre, profit from the trade and abuse women’s bodies for their personal gratification. As long as women are forced to live in poverty, women will be forced to work in the sex industry.

Beauty Industry :

The beauty industry is a billion dollar industry that prescribes women’s behaviour and appearance. Women are deemed unfuckable unless they meet very narrow guidelines of beauty: tall, thin, and white. Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth shows how the industry keeps women materially and psychologically poor.

The cost of being “beautiful” (and therefore worthy of humanity) includes the billion dollar cosmetic industry, plastic surgery for implants and liposuction as well as designer vaginas. The fashion industry, with it’s obsession with clothes which do not fit adult women and shoes which maim, is also worth billions:  money which women are forced to pay to deemed worthy of employment and life.

International economics controlled by multinational corporations and poverty:

Water Facts from the UN

  • 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet.
  • 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.
  • 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.
  • Various estimates indicate that, based on business as usual, ~3.5 planets Earth would be needed to sustain a global population achieving the current lifestyle of the average European or North American.
  • Global population growth projections of 2–3 billion people over the next 40 years, combined with changing diets, result in a predicted increase in food demand of 70% by 2050.
  • Over half of the world population lives in urban areas, and the number of urban dwellers grows each day. Urban areas, although better served than rural areas, are struggling to keep up with population growth (WHO/UNICEF, 2010).
  • With expected increases in population, by 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 50% (70% by 2050) (Bruinsma, 2009), while energy demand from hydropower and other renewable energy resources will rise by 60% (WWAP, 2009). These issues are interconnected – increasing agricultural output, for example, will substantially increase both water and energy consumption, leading to increased competition for water between water-using sectors.
  • Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions. Yet future global agricultural water consumption alone is estimated to increase by ~19% by 2050, and will be even greater in the absence of any technological progress or policy intervention.
  • Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some fast-growing economies).

Domestic Violence Statistics (taken from Women’s Aid):

  • 1 in 8/ 1 in 10 women experience domestic violence annually
  • 45% of women experience one form of interpersonal violence during their life.
  • There are 13 million separate acts of physical violence or threats of physical  violence each year against women by current or former partners
  • 32% of women who had ever experienced domestic violence did so four or five (or more) times, compared with 11% of the (smaller number) of men who had ever experienced domestic violence
  • women constituted 89% of all those who had experienced 4 or more incidents of domestic violence.

What is the cost of domestic violence?  (Women’s Aid)

The estimated total cost of domestic violence to society in monetary terms is £23 billion per annum. This figure includes an estimated £3.1 billion as the cost to the state and £1.3 billion as the cost to employers and human suffering cost of £17 billion. (Walby 2004). The estimated total cost is based on the following:

  • The cost to the criminal justice system is £1 billion per annum. (This represents one quarter of the criminal justice budget for violent crime including the cost of homicide to adult women annually of £112 million).
  • The cost of physical healthcare treatment resulting from domestic violence, (including hospital, GP, ambulance, prescriptions) is £1,220,247,000, i.e. 3% of total NHS budget.
  • The cost of treating mental illness and distress due to domestic violence is £176,000,000.
  • The cost to the social services is £0.25 billion.
  • Housing costs are estimated at £0.16 billion.
  • The cost of civil legal services due to domestic violence is £0.3billion.

The statistics collated by Walby above are recognised as an under-estimate because public services don’t collect information on the extent to which their services are used as a result of domestic violence. The research doesn’t include costs to those areas for which it was difficult to collect any baseline information – for example cost to social services work with vulnerable adults, cost to education services, the human cost to children (including moving schools and the impact this has on their education), and it excludes the cost of therapeutic and other support within the voluntary sector.

The cost of domestic homicide is estimated by the Home Office at over one million pounds: a total of £1, 097, 330 for each death, or £112 million per year.

Information on Child maintenance from Gingerbread:

  • Only two-fifths (38 per cent) of single parents receive maintenance from their child’s other parent (31)
  • For all those with an agreement for child maintenance (both through the CSA and private arrangement) the median weekly amount received is £46 per family (32)
  • The average amount of child maintenance liable to be paid through the CSA is currently £33.50 per week (£22.50 if all cases with a weekly assessment of zero are included in the average). (33)
  • Among parents with care in receipt of income-related benefits, the average amount is £23 (excluding cases with a weekly assessment of zero) (34)
  • Of single parents receiving child maintenance through the CSA, 40 per cent receive less than £10 per week, 38 per cent receive between £10 and £50 per week and 22 per cent receive more than £50 per week (35)

 

Signs of Violent and Controlling Behaviour from Women’s Aid:

  • Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting/mocking/accusing/name calling/verbally threatening.
  • Pressure tactics: sulking; threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children; lying to your friends and family about you; telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
  • Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people; not listening or responding when you talk; interrupting your telephone calls; taking money from your purse without asking; refusing to help with childcare or housework.
  • Breaking trust: lying to you; withholding information from you; being jealous; having other relationships; breaking promises and shared agreements.
  • Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls; telling you where you can and cannot go; preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.
  • Harassment: following you; checking up on you; opening your mail; repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you; embarrassing you in public.
  • Threats: making angry gestures; using physical size to intimidate; shouting you down; destroying your possessions; breaking things; punching walls; wielding a knife or a gun; threatening to kill or harm you and the children.
  • Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts; having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex; any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.
  • Physical violence: punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching; kicking; pulling hair out; pushing; shoving; burning; strangling.
  • Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen; saying you caused the abusive behaviour; being publicly gentle and patient; crying and begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again.

[1] Denise Thompson, Radical Feminism Today, (Sage Pub. 2001)

[2] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, (Oxford University Press: 1986)

[3] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (Oxford University Press: 1986) p.8

[4] Million Women Rise coalition at UK Feminista Summer School. 2011

Second wave feminism and racism

Erasing women of colour from their participation in the second wave feminist movement is racism.

Claiming racism didn’t exist in second wave feminism is racism.

It is entirely possible for both statements to be accurate. Claiming that one is true and the other is not is also racism.

The No-Platforming of Feminists

Today, the Guardian published an open letter written by Bea Campbell about the no-platforming of feminists at universities. I signed the letter because I am increasingly concerned by the silencing of dissenting views– particularly by women – on university campuses. It is absolutely essential that universities remain spaces which challenge orthodoxy. Students are spoon-fed heteronormative, white supremacist history in secondary schools, particularly in relation to the obsessive examining of children through SATs, A-Levels and Highers. Universities and colleges should be places where students are exposed to all manner of thought and theory – even those which make them uncomfortable.

The cancellation of Kate Smurthwaite’s show at Goldsmith’s last month was the latest in a long line of questionable decisions by universities. I’ve read accounts from all manner of people who were involved in the situation prior to the university’s security firm deciding it was “not safe” to go ahead with the event due to protests. Smurthwaite should not have been un-invited due to her stance on prostitution and the sex industry.

Equally, students who wanted to protest outside the venue should have had that option. Frankly, it’s the responsibility of university security to maintain the right to peaceful protest. I am sure they were worried about that gang of men, who normally self-define as anarchists but are mostly pro-violence, showing up to cause havoc. They do so at every single protest going and take great delight in causing damage and engaging in threatening behaviour. The fact that a group of people intent on violence *may* have shown up is not serious enough to cancel either Smurthwaite’s performance or any potential protest on site.

University and college campuses (and one day secondary schools) should be hotbeds of radical thought, protest and anger.  It should be where students are challenged, provoked and forced to confront ideas antithetical to their own. It doesn’t mean they will change their minds and it doesn’t make changing your political position a sign of weakness. It means we are teaching students to think for themselves – something which is sorely missing right now.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told Julie Bindel is transphobic by people who have never read any of her work and had no idea that she was involved in feminist campaigns like Justice for Women. If students find her work transphobic, they have every right to say so. BUT, they need to actually read this work for themselves and not just parrot what someone else has told them.

It is ironic the number of people tweeting out #JeSuisCharlie in defence of freedom of speech for a deeply racist and misogynist magazine who have no problem whatsoever in telling women to shut up.

We need to insist that our children grow up with critical thinking skills and the ability and desire to challenge anything they deem incorrect and dangerous. The right to protest is a fundamental right of democracy – but this right is not predicated on ensuring that everyone thinks or believes the same. I have written before about my concerns on the rhetoric of “free speech”  being guaranteed only for those in power to engage in abuse towards those without power. This is what universities need to change: ensuring that political debate is encouraged and that the right to protest remains protected.

This is why I signed the letter written by Bea Campbell: silencing women you disagree with is simply replicating the same heteronormative, capitalist power structures that exist.

The fate of Kate Smurthwaite’s comedy show, cancelled by Goldsmith’s College in London last month (“What could be more absurd than censorship on campus”, Nick Cohen, Comment) is part of a worrying pattern of intimidation and silencing of individuals whose views are deemed “transphobic” or “whorephobic”. Most of the people so labelled are feminists or pro-feminist men, some have experience in the sex industry, some are transgender.

Last month, there were calls for the Cambridge Union to withdraw a speaking invitation to Germaine Greer; then the Green party came under pressure to repudiate the philosophy lecturer Rupert Read after he questioned the arguments put forward by some trans-activists. The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been “no-platformed” by the National Union of Students for several years.

“No platforming” used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists and Holocaust-deniers. But today it is being used to prevent the expression of feminist arguments critical of the sex industry and of some demands made by trans activists. The feminists who hold these views have never advocated or engaged in violence against any group of people. Yet it is argued that the mere presence of anyone said to hold those views is a threat to a protected minority group’s safety.

You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic. Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying. We call on universities and other organisations to stand up to attempts at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of democratic political exchange.

Beatrix Campbell

Lynne Alderson

Ruth Ahnert

Dr Lucy Allen

Nimko Ali

Dr Kerri Andrews

Lisa Appignanesi

Prof. John Barrell

Prof Mary Beard

Melissa Benn

Rosa Bennathan

Katie Beswick

Dr Sue Black

Prof Jenny Bourne Taylor

Alison Boydell

Fiona Broadfoot

Paul Burston

Dianne Butterworth

Prof Deborah Cameron

Ivy Cameron

Dr Rosie Campbell

Cynthia Cockburn

Anna Coote

Caroline Criado-Perez

Hannah Curtis

Dr Liz Davies

Kim Darwood

Dr Sukhwant Dhaliwal

Jane Diblin

Sarah Ditum

Stella Duffy

Dr Victoria Dutchman-Smith

Louise Evan-Wong

Dr Katharine Edgar

Jayne Egerton

Carol Fox

Kim Graham

Rahila Gupta

Prof Catherine Hall

Prof Jalna Hanmer

Jeremy Hardy

Dr James Harrison

Heather Harvey

Lorrie Hearts

Prof Nicholas Hewitt

Dr Rachel Hewitt

Deborah Hyde

Bridget Irving

Susan Jack

Darren Johnson MLA

Claire Jones

Jane Clare Jones

Judith Jones

Prof Liz Kelly

Karen Hanna Kruzycka

Jenny Landreth

Claire Lazarus

Kate Leigh

Prof Alison Light

Prof Ruth Lister

Dr Julia Long

Sonia Long

Prof Joni Lovenduski

David Lusted

Dr Samantha Lyle

Shakila Maan

Dr Finn Mackay

Nancy Mackeith

Rosina Mcrae

Sarah Maguire

Dr Sarah Mansfield

Elizabeth Mansfield

Heather McRobie

Gia Milinovich

Lucinda Montefiore

Dr Helen Mott

Hannah Mudge

Sonali Naik

Dr Peter Newbon

Jill Nicholls

Sian Norris

Juliet Oosthuysen

Sue O’Sullivan

Femi Otitoju

Ursula Owen

Sue Parrish

Pragna Patel

Louise Pennington

Cat Peters

Prof Jill Radford

Dale Rapley

Dr Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

Dr Victoria Rimell

Roweena Russell

Dr Adam Rutherford

Gita Sahgal

Dr Joan Scanlon

Sandhya Sharma

Vanessa Shaw

Dr Ben Schiller

Prof Sophie Scott

Shelley Silas

Karen Ingala Smith

Prof Francesca Stavrakopoulou

Sian Steans

Mary-Ann Stephenson

Prof Ann Stewart

Marina Strinkovsky

Southall Black Sisters

Julka Szymanska

Felicity Tarnell

Peter Tatchell

Steve Trafford

Dr Sue Tate

Dr Matthew Taunton

Lisa-Marie Taylor

Helen Thompson

Dr Megan Todd

Janet Veitch

Judith Vidal-Hall

Nicky Wallace

Dr Jim Walsh

Liz Waterhouse

Prof Nicole Westmarland

Lisa Whelan

Dr Michael Whitworth

Jim Wild

Dr Heather Williams

Clair Wills

Prof Alan Winfield

Harriet Wistrich

Miranda Yardley

No-Platforming, Radical Feminism and Violence

There is yet another petition demanding that Julie Bindel be no-platformed. This time  it is students at Essex University demanding she be no-platformed from a panel on pornography during an event dedicated to critical thinking.

I’ve been at a number of feminist conferences this year where women have spoken about Bindel’s “hate speech” and “violent language” – the first was the New Turns Conference in February and ending with the FWSA Affective Sisterhood conference in September. Not one woman I spoke to about Bindel actually knew anything more than that she;s “transphobic”. None had read her work. They certainly weren’t familiar with her work on pornography, prostitution, and other vulnerable women. They hadn’t read of the news articles and opinion pieces nor any of her research. All of these people – female and male – had heard “somewhere” that Bindel was transphobic and violent.

I did snigger at this comment under the petition:

I’m not capable of discussing ideas with those who may hold different opinions. University is only for those who think the same way as me.

but it raises some interesting issues. University is not an institution where students should expect everyone to have the same opinion as them – it’s kind of the whole point of attending university. You will be exposed to alternate view points and you will think some of the people attending are racist or stupid or nincompoops or one of a billion other things. Demanding that someone be no-platformed when you have never bothered to do any research on the person or read anything they have written is anti-education.

Now, I have no idea if the tweet below is one that Bindel actually wrote or yet another myth created by people who aren’t familiar with Bindel’s work, but the statement below, taken from the petition, demonstrates the fallacious logic of much of the accusations:

Julie Bindel, in solidarity with the rest of her ignorant TERF bigots castigates transwomen purely because they were born with male genitals. Moreover, she falsely accuses all transwomen of being paedophiles, rapists and murderers, because – just like ALL genders – some are. Need proof? Text of a Tweet by Julie Bindel, 19 March 2013:

Some trans women are rapists and predators/child abusers that are in for killing/raping born women”

Bindell is no friend to transwomen, just as she is no friend to women. Her fanatical feminazi outporings actually damage feminism, which can only be detrimental to the rights of all women. (my bolds)

Ignoring the use of the term “feminazi” which in and of itself is a ridiculous and deeply offensive hyperbole, some and all do not meet the same thing. We do know that “some” transwomen are rapists. Dana McCallum pled guilty to two misdemeanours including domestic violence and false imprisonment. We know that Christopher Hambrook claimed to be transgender in order to access vulnerable women in shelters – he was allowed in these shelters because he had been taking hormones and despite his history of convictions of sexual violence.

We need to recognise that violence is perpetrated by some transwoman and that women aren’t lying when they disclose this abuse. We can’t pretend that it doesn’t happen or that their crimes should be forgiven as transwomen experience disproportionate abuse as the Sylvia Rivera Law Project did with Synthia China Blast. It is not transphobic to discuss whether or not McCallum’s rape was an example of sexual violence within lesbian relationships or if it is yet another example of male violence (for the record, I believe committing rape with a penis is male violence). We can’t pretend that some men claim to be transwomen to access women’s spaces to perpetrate sexual violence and can do this because the laws on gender recognition are open to abuse. Men who kill transwomen make that choice but the murder and sexual assault of some transwomen does not negate responsibility for the perpetration of violence of other members of the Trans community.

Julie Bindel has not been invited to speak at the University of Essex on the topic of transgenderism. She’s been invited to speak on a roundtable on pornography: a subject in which she is highly qualified to speak.  No-platforming someone who’s work you aren’t familiar with is censorship – it’s the kind of censorship that gets sniggered about in liberal circles when banned book week comes up. Yet, these same people think it’s okay to censor a woman for something that they don’t actually know what it is but only that it’s “vile” – a term that pro-pornography people claim has no actual definition. Unless it’s applied to radical feminists and not pornography.

 

UPDATE: Julie Bindel’s invitation to speak at Sheffield University next week has been withdrawn.

Paris Lees, That Vice Article and Some Basic Facts about Radical Feminism

This is a clean link to Paris Lee’s “article” in Vice magazine entitled “THE TRANS VS. RADICAL FEMINIST TWITTER WAR IS MAKING ME SICK”. Now, I do agree with her title. The so-called twitter “war” does make me sick but only because threatening to rape, kill or otherwise harm another human being doesn’t exactly fill me with the same feeling that, say, fluffy bunnies do. Telling women who disagree with you politically to die in a fire or using the tag “die cis scum” isn’t covered under the heading of debate, conversation or discussion.

Hate speech: definitely.

Debate: not so much.

I don’t disagree with pretty much everything else in the article.

I’m going to assume that Lees isn’t very familiar with radical feminist theory when writing this:

The TERFs and the Meanies call themselves “gender critical” but they’re not, not really. They aren’t obsessed with David Beckham, or Katie Price, or the billions of other people who aren’t trans who perpetuate gender every day. Just trans people, who they can pick on. 

Less than 60 seconds on google will find radical feminist discussions of gender performativity as exemplified by both Beckham and Price. It would find millions of discussions of masculinity (which, for those who can’t follow the argument, is about men and women who perpetuate harmful gendered behaviours and stereotypes such as the girls are nurturning/ boys are violent bullshit we see every single freaking day in nurseries, playgroups and schools across the UK/North America). In fact, shocking as this is, it was radical feminists who pushed the discussions on gender, masculinity and patriarchy into the public sphere in the late 60s and the 1970s. To suggest that radical feminists do not talk about gender in any other context than that of transgendered people is a deliberate misrepresentation of radical feminist theory.

The utterly ridiculous conflation of a consensual relationship between two adults [and, you know, Brian Cox is probably aware of who his wife is – enough assholes tweet him telling him to shut his wife up on a weekly basis that he couldn’t possibly ever forget the woman he MARRIED FFS. Also, demanding a man control his wife is misogyny. It’s the freaking dictionary definition). :  

Asking someone why they are trans is no better than asking them, “Why are you so fat?” Gia Milonovich is the girl in the playground shouting “You’re not pretty like us!” but who never gets into trouble because she’s banging the head of science, Mr Cox. She’ll tell you what being trans is all about. Me, sir! Me! I know the answer! I’ve read the next chapter!

There is no such thing as a teenage girl “banging” the head of science. An adult male teacher engaged in any form of sexual relationship with a student is committing sexual assault or rape. It’s a deliberate abuse of power and should result in a lengthy jail sentence for the perpetrator. It is not a subject open to “jokes”. It isn’t “banging” – and the use of the term “banging” to refer to sex is heteronormative and lesbophobic. (And, just to be arsey: spelling Gia Milinovich‘s name right isn’t that hard. If you’re going to make baseless insults about someone, it’s probably worth checking you’ve got their name right.)

The naming of individual women as targets of derision is a direct contradiction of Lees’ demand that people on both sides of the debate stop attacking one another. Have to say, I haven’t seen any personal attacks by Sarah Ditum, Glosswitch, or Milinovich naming specific women as Lees did. And, I’m also not entirely sure why Sarah Ditum not hanging out behind the bike racks means she hates fun as this suggests: 

 I’m the girl with the short skirt and too much makeup on hiding behind the bike shed with a bong, a packet of Superking Menthols and Liam from 6th Form.

There are a million ways women can have “fun” that don’t involve performing femininity. Hell, there are lots that don’t involve leaving the house or skipping school. Granted, I never actually enjoyed school having been a victim of sustained bullying for 8 years but some girls actively enjoyed being there and found it “fun”. This doesn’t make them not-girls or unfun.

Oddly, the theory that the only girls who are “fun” are those in short skirts, wearing too much make-up and smoking is a gendered stereotype that radical feminists loathe. Having sex is not the only way to have fun – and suggesting that women who don’t fuck every single man they meet aren’t “fun” is misogyny. It is very clear from this statement that the only “fun” girls Paris Lees identifies are those who meet the patriarchy’s standards of acceptable girls (and that men will label these women sluts or that many of them will be victims of male sexual violence is totally irrelevant.) Dismissing women who disagree with you as “meanies” or “unfun” isn’t discussion or debate. And, really, if Lees wanted to change the nature of the discussions so as not to address radical feminists, why name women like Julie Bindel, Caroline Criado-Perez or Glosswitch? It’s hypocritical to demand people stop engaging in discussions they want to have by insulting them but demanding the right to do so yourself. And, really, a diatribe against “meanies” which uses disablist language and insults? Really?

Radical feminist opposes all gendered stereotyping and assumptions that sex dictates personality, behaviours or traits. Radical feminism argues against stereotyping women as nurturing and boys as rough and tumble. Radical feminist theory and transgender theory are polar opposites because transgender theory believes that gender is innate and radical feminists believe it is socially constructed. Radical feminists aren’t arguing for the genocide of transgendered people. They want an end to to the hierarchical structure of gender in which power is maintained by men for men through compulsory heterosexuality and the ownership of women and children.

Many radical feminist do argue about the exclusion of transwomen from bathrooms, change rooms, and other women-only spaces because the definition of trans is so open as to be pointless. If anyone who identifies as a transwoman can use women’s bathrooms, then any sexual predator can identify that way to access vulnerable women. There have already been examples of abusive husbands claiming to be transwomen to access the refuge their wife and children are hiding in. 60 seconds on google would find examples in the UK, US and Canada. This isn’t “what if” scenarios. This is actually happening and women are being raped by men in supposedly women-only spaces. This is without examining the issue of prisons where one man, incarcerated for raping his ex-girlfriend, claimed to be trans to be switched to a women’s prison. A convicted rapist, who still has his penis, is now in a prison for women – considering the vast majority of women in prison are incarcerated for non-violent crimes and have histories of child sexual abuse and substance misuse. And, they are being put at risk from a convicted rapist who claims to be a woman.

There is no such thing as innate gender. We are born female, male or intersex. Women get pregnant – I want to say adult here but we have all read stories of 10 year olds denied abortions. PIV is far riskier for women than it is for men – STDS pass more easily from male to female and the majority of urinary tract infections in women are caused by dirty penises. Women engaged in oral sex are more likely to get an STI than a man. Women are refused work or fired for the possibility of becoming pregnant – regardless of whether or not they can actually conceive and carry a foetus to term or even want to. A man with a post-secondary education who transitions late in life has had very different prospects in employment than a woman with an equivalent education. To suggest otherwise is utterly fucking ridiculous. These aren’t facts that women can ignore. We shouldn’t have to pretend they aren’t real or harmful. Women have been told to shut up by men for a millennia. There is nothing new or special in demanding women not talk about these topics.

Transwomen are raped and murdered for being trans. They are being raped and murdered by the same group of people who rape and murder women and children: men. So, why do transactivists focus their energy on a small number of radical feminists who have very little political power and wealth? Why don’t they target the group with actual power: men?

The real problem on our planet is men: they control 99% of the world’s land, most of the income and they spend their trillions of dollars on arms, drugs and human trafficking. Men would rather spend billions on pesticides and destroying clean water than ensuring that every single person on this planet has access to clean water. These are the issues radical feminists are concerned about: gendercide, education, war, famine, environmental destruction, the arms trade, rape culture, reproductive justice and the right of all children to grow up safe. Suggesting that it is only concerned with transgender theory is a malicious and deliberate misrepresentation of radical feminists.

After all, who the fuck do you think fought for rape crisis centres and refuges? Who were at the peace camps like Greenham common? Who continue to campaign against human trafficking, the arms trade and the total environmental destruction of our planet?

Sex, Gender, Harassment and Being a Radical Feminist

I haven’t written about the sex/gender debate for a while because I am simply horrified by the amount of abuse that it generates.  What chance do we have in dismantling the patriarchy if self-defining feminists think it’s acceptable to insult, denigrate, and harass other women because of difference? This is without addressing the issue of threats of violence up to -and including- suggesting other women should die in a fire.

This isn’t a feminism I want to be part of and I struggle to understand how women think this counts as feminist activism. Trawling the timeline of someone who has blocked you isn’t activism. It’s stalking and we need to stop pretending that it’s acceptable. Digital Stalking lists a series of behaviours which constitute stalking. Look how many are applicable to so-called “feminist activism” on twitter:

The most common tactics for stalkers and bullies include:

    • Monitoring you and friends- looking at what you post, photos, where you go, who you go with etc.
    • Spyware – putting spy software on your phone or computer
    • Sending text, messages – sending hurtful or threatening messages to you over and over again
    • Account takeovers/hacking – accessing your online accounts
    • Denigration – send, post, or publish cruel rumors and untrue statements to damage your reputation
    • Distribute photos or videos – distributing photos or videos to embarrass you
    • Exclusion – contacting or inviting everyone but you
    • Flaming – posting an abusive response so everyone can see it
    • Outing – telling people something embarrassing about you
    • Threats and Dissemination – they threaten you and then tell everyone
    • Confidence tricks- getting you to reveal information about themselves and then using against them
    • Impersonation – pretending to be the victim either online or via email etc.
    • Spaming- signing the victim up for junk email
    • Trolling – say something online to get you to provoke you into responding
    • Bullying by proxy – getting others to join in

It’s been about 6 months since I was last targeted with many of the behaviours above for labelling myself a radical feminist. When I say 6 months, I mean a sustained attack. I still get abusive tweets, bullying by-proxy and flaming on a daily basis from a group of women and men who label themselves feminists.

When I’ve written about this before, particularly in relation to being called “a hypocritical cunt“, I’ve always asked how this can be considered feminism. How can feminism have arrived at a point where calling women hypocritical cunts or suggesting women die in a fire is considered activism?

It wasn’t until I recently read Denise Thompson’s Radical Feminism Today, which is somewhat unfortunately titled since it is actually about defining feminism, that I realised what I was failing to understand. Thompson argues that much of the problem is that self-defining feminists are working from radically different definitions of the term and that much of our disagreements stem from a fundamental inability to define terms: feminism, patriarchy, sex and gender.

A very basic misunderstanding of terms is seen with “radical feminism” which defines radical to mean root or origin. It is radical insofar as it contextualises the root of women’s oppression in the biological realities of our bodies and seeks drastic political, economic, and social reforms.

As a radical feminist, my definition of feminism is similar to that of Thompson: feminism is the liberation of women from male domination. This domination does not exist simply in violence but rather encompasses the mundane social structures which result in the oppression of women even if we do not perceive them as such – the debate over “gendered” toys being a case in point.

Radical feminism, as outlined by Gerda Lerner in The Creation of Patriachy, also posits women’s oppression in two issues: women’s  sexuality and women’s reproductive potential. Women’s oppression is because of our biological sex. Terms like feminism, patriarchy and gender are non-sensical if they do not reference biology or the reality of male domination and male supremacy. We cannot liberate women from the oppressive social structures in which we live if we do not recognise that biology has been our destiny for several millennia.

This recognition of the oppression of women as a class because of biology is what results in the vast majority of abuse directed at radical feminists. We have arrived at a point where the reality of women’s bodies are being erased: we can not talk of abortion or menstruation without being labelled transphobic. We cannot discuss the reality of pregnancy, infertility, ovarian cancer or fibroids. These are issues which affect women every single day but we are no longer allowed to discuss them as women’s issues.

Yet, women’s reproductive capabilities are at the centre of our oppression. If we don’t recognise this reality, then why on earth do people think women are oppressed? Because, I genuinely don’t understand how we can discuss feminism without discussing the reasons women have been oppressed and these reasons are all rooted in basic human biology. This is why radical feminism seeks to eliminate gender because it fails to address basic biology whilst simultaneously reinforcing behaviours which are deemed appropriate to man/woman and, as such, mandate women’s oppression based on their biology. The rigamarole required to get to this position is ridiculous.

Gender is not a performance nor is it based in a science. It is nothing more than the systemic social, cultural and physical oppression of women’s bodies which does nothing more than a reinforce a binary of man/woman which is really that of human/subhuman. Gender only exists in order to reinforce the White Supremacist Patriarchy. It actively harms women because it is based in the belief that women are not human.

In order to do feminism, we must define what it is we mean by feminism and it has to recognise male supremacy and domination and the biological realities of women’s bodies. Women’s oppression rests in our sexuality and our reproductive capabilities for a reason; there is a reason that rape is a common weapon to control and punish women [and the men that own those women’s bodies] and that raping women to get them pregnant was (is) a tool of most armies across the millennia. It is because of our biology.

Men took control over women’s (reproductive) labour, in order to grant themselves economic and political power. Or, in the words of Gerda Lerner, the commodification of women’s sexual and reproductive capacities is the foundation of the creation of private property and a class-based society.

Women are oppressed as a class because of our sexual and reproductive labours (from the existence of concubines to the rearing of children to women’s labours being the foundation of a family’s income). To ignore this, is to make feminism irrelevant.

Women are oppressed because of our biology.

And, I am officially done with being silenced by men and women who resort to threats of violence and harassment any time a woman points out that abortion is a woman’s issue because it is about the control of women’s reproductive capabilities. If we can’t talk about the state’s interference within our own bodies as women, how on earth are we supposed to break free of the systemic oppression of us as women?

Women are oppressed because of our biology. Violence, and threats therein, are just patriarchal silencing techniques which have oppressed and harmed women throughout history. Anyone who claims that they are engaged in feminist activism when making such threats is mistaken. All they are doing is helping the violent abusive men who rape, torture and violate women continue to harm women. It isn’t feminism.

And, this should go without saying, but deliberately targeting women who have spoken publicly about their mental health for abuse makes you a shitty, nasty excuse for a human being.