All Along the Watchtower


I’ve called myself a feminist for a long time. I’ve had ‘crazy’, unspeakable-in-public, totally ‘offensive’ notions since I was quite young. But I’ve never been formally educated in feminism, I had no stable or lasting feminist role models in my life, nor did I seek out specifically feminist writing until not that long ago. And getting to where I am (and where I am still going) has been a process. I’ve made tons of mistakes with regard to men and how to frame my reality in a man-made world. I’ve had realizations that didn’t have complete impact until years later – when I was ready for their full force. This is all part of the development of a radical feminist that I’ve begun writing about in my Birth of a Feminist series.

About a year ago, I realized I was missing and needing something in my life. I was feeling lost, hurt, alone, lonely, chronically and mildly depressed, and unable to come up with at least a short-term plan or desire or motivation for the future (which is unusual for me – the survivor, the Plan/Strategy Queen). Without a lot of thinking about it, I found myself one day googling radical feminism, and a year later, I’m in deep. What had been missing was a philosophical system that spoke to me and how I work and that could help me pull everything together and make sense of the world. No other philosophy has ever done this for me. You see, they’ve all been male-orientated, and I’m not a fucking male. That initial internet search drove me directly to some of the most hard-core radical feminist blogs around (or archived). And I was home. I lamented that had I been able to find such intelligent, outspoken and honest women sooner, life would have looked quite a bit different. I think a lot of the misery could have been avoided. And I might not be stuck in China completely and utterly isolated from the kind of women (especially near’ish my age and older) I really need and want to be around. But better late than never?

Well, yes. Better late than never. Radical feminism saved my life. And that is not a unique sentiment. I’ve read it and heard it countless times by women who, one way or another, found themselves in RF’s comforting arms. Radical feminism gives you a framework in which to understand why you feel so damned angry, why you don’t fit in, and why the majority of people not only don’t understand you, but often react violently to you when you state your opinions and experiences.


As you’re getting your footing among women who’ve been RFing for years, and finding out where you’ve gone right and wrong on your unaided journey prior to that, you encounter a lot of confusing stuff.

Calling yourself a rad-fem doesn’t mean you’re perfect. There is always room to grow. And that is a-okay. Growth comes from dialogue, sharing and learning from those more experienced than you and with different takes on similar situations. But more troubling – and this is where things can be confusing for those entering ‘the scene’ – are RFs who appear to hold all the basic tenets of rad-feminism to be true, but who will engage in behaviours that contradict the main objective. And I’ve noticed two confusing and thought-stopping behaviour camps present in online interaction. Both are actually common among liberal feminists, but I’ve seen purported and community-accepted rad-fems engage in them, as well.

The first one is well-documented: these are the ‘oppression olympians’. These folks are very concerned with making sure everyone understands all the ways in which they are disadvantaged. They often believe they are worse off than anyone else, and they will whip out the relevant oppression to thought-stop/silence any person they disagree with. It also serves as a derail technique. Many an excellent discussion has veered off track once an olympian shows up to remind everyone about how hurt she feels because of her special status. This kind of posing is antithetical to radical feminism as any RF worth her salt sees women as the primary focus of any RF discussion, movement, action, protest. Focusing on ‘intersection’ (and really, intersection can get so crazily defined that we all end up in groups of 1) is a divide and conquer technique that only serves to benefit men and take power and solidarity away from women as a class.

The second group I call the Watchtower snipers. These are most often women who instead of identifying first and most importantly as women – an oppressed class and the very subjects of radical feminism – take whatever privileged group membership(s) they have very, very seriously as a badge of shame. So seriously, in fact, that they will negate their own valid, horrible experiences because they are not as oppressive or legitimate as any other more oppressed woman’s. They also become hyper-vigilant for any sign of offense-giving in others, ‘shoot down’ anyone and everyone for these perceived offenses, and coddle olympians who show up to throw tantrums and to abuse perceived oppressors (their fellow women! ffs!). For some reason, these rad-fem watchtower snipers are also uniquely prone to neurotic grammar policing and will derail a thread by picking apart another woman’s comma or contraction usage. Weird. Snipers shoot wildly and indiscriminately to protect a perceived uber-victim. And sadly, it produces a similar result to olympianism by derailing, silencing and thought terminating.

The first blog I read from cover to cover, so to speak (which I won’t name here as I won’t shit on women who are, for the most part, doing important work and have my utmost respect for speaking dangerous thoughts and moderating comments), was brilliantly, brilliantly written by a woman with deliciously , what I call ‘out there‘ views. But to my great sadness, I found her to be a bit of a sniper, and allowed and supported olympians in her comments section, and wouldn’t tolerate trans-criticism. It really confused me as I quickly got up to speed on current feminist issues. She called herself a radical feminist, but failed on a few crucial points. Nevertheless, this blog was really, very important to me.

Women need to be able to criticize other women on important issues. Women are also allowed to feel and express their righteous anger. Nitpicking grammar (and I say this as an English instructor) is not a serious issue in feminism. Whether trans folk (men) should be allowed to take over the few safe spaces we have left is. And if comments are allowed on blogs, well of course, bloggers can have whatever policy they wish, but coddling trolls (who are probably very damaged women in need of real help/support – not anonymous blog discourse) and shooting supporters in the head doesn’t make for good female solidarity.


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Posted on December 27, 2015, in Anti-Feminism, Birth of a Feminist, Feminism and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on All Along the Watchtower.

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