Category Archives: Birth of a Feminist
The other day, I got one of those special, special WordPress notifications that let me know something I had been suspecting for a few weeks. A year has come and gone in my blogging world.
To be honest, while there are plenty more things to write about, I’m thinking it might be about time to stop / take a break / write very sporadically. I’ll keep the thing up. After all, I’ve managed to create a place for Muslim rapists, pro-Muslim-rapists, and white-woman-haters to come in search of rape porn starring white ho’s. The majority of the keywords used to get to my site tell me this, at least… I wouldn’t want to deprive them of the disappointment of arriving at my site only to find justified misandry rather than sexual assault boner-poppin’ good times.
It’s not that I’ve worn myself out or given up. I was cynical about the future of feminism and women’s liberation before I started writing. Nothing has changed there. I firmly believe that women will never be free or safe or have clear identities that have nothing to do with what men say we are. The so-called freest women in the world -Western women of ALL colours – are, in fact, just as enslaved as all the others, but even worse, they fucking choose to embrace the trappings of slavery despite their primarily white foremothers having fought and died and been beaten and raped before them for very meager rights. And the foremothers are either derided or lost to obscurity. Slapped in the face and laughed at by women today who use their slightly longer leashes as sexy-fun bondage equipment for their own selves rather than as rope with which to hang men. Nope, I see no hope for women and their very deserved, but very out of reach freedom.
I think I’ve gotten a lot from what I’ve read on other blogs, but I’m not sure I’m being challenged anymore. So few women are willing to propose anything truly radical (in the other sense of the word), so there isn’t much of interest to me these days. Most feminists just report the continued atrocities that are women’s daily lives, and I have to ask, “So the fuck what?” That shit will continue and will escalate until we stop reporting and actually do something about it. But that appears to be beyond feminists’ pay scale. So really, what’s the point other than incite women to work up a good lather and teeth-gnashing in their computer chairs and then moments later to put on their lipstick and slut-gear and go to work or play. I imagine something different, but then I’m never going to be popular with the vast majority of women. Yep, no hope there.
Anyhow, the stark reality of things unfeminist is not why I may or may not continue writing. I just have new, potentially awesome shit to work on that has little to do with people/women as a class, and everything to do with saving my currently atrophying brain and flagging health. I’ve likely mentioned it a few times here, but China is killing me on multiple levels, and for fuck’s sake, I have realized I have a lot more I can possibly do with my life than act as doormat to a country full of racist, woman-hating, completely selfish and self-absorbed, unempathic robot-drones that make me question the value of ‘culture’.
In other words, I know I can save one woman, and that woman is me.
Until we meet again – or not! It is a Story Ending Never, after all.
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.
I’ve never been to therapy.
I think I badly need it, but I know I won’t ever go. And I’ve come to realize why this will never happen.
I was raised and abused by a father who was a male therapist. I won’t (in this post) even touch on my even more abusive mother (who was not a therapist). Between the two of them, I grew up to be an emotionally paralyzed, very confused, silent, angry, socially anxious and awkward, depressed individual, and then was further abused by these parents for being emotionally paralyzed, very confused, silent, angry, socially anxious and awkward, and depressed. Exactly the kind of person who could use a little therapy to untwist the emotional twine binding her.
But as I said, I’ll never go. Even though I went on to formally study psychology for years, I kept to the hard sciencey specializations (statistics, neuroscience, psychometry) and kept all my clinical dealings as a sideline through clinical and forensic research projects, coursework and collaboration/friendship with the more interesting of the clinical (female) crowd.
Even in the thick of things, I still declined therapy while feeling I desperately needed it at the same time. Instead, I self-examined. I know exactly what’s going on with me thanks to years of this relentless questioning and probing. Unfortunately, therapists are useful creatures – you can self-examine all you want and still not make much progress towards balance or health. Therapists are guides, and they are supposed to support you when you are at your most exposed and vulnerable.
As I am an expert in mind-fuckery, I often think about therapy professions. That was what I wanted to be as a kid, and I discarded it in college. At the time, I thought my classmates were too wishy-washy, and hey, I was really good at math and experimental design, but looking back, I know that I left because it was too threatening. Part of me didn’t want to have to address the nasty truths in my life and thus become vulnerable. I knew what vulnerable was and the therapist I grew up with both made me vulnerable and exploited it relentlessly. Who wants more of that?
And as I’ve explored the therapy professions (social work, clinical psychology, clinical psychiatry, etc), I keep coming back to the same question or set of questions.
What draws men to this line of work? And more specifically, what draws men to therapy for female victims of sex crimes (rape, sexual assault, incest)?
Let’s come back to this and talk about female therapists first.
First off, not all female therapists are good and/or appropriate for your needs. The therapist’s professional orientation may not line up with yours. The therapist has been educated by the patriarchy and likely holds patriarchal views of women and their illnesses. Speaking from experience with clinical psych undergrad and postgrad students and professors, many therapists (male and female) are not the most stable themselves. People with problems tend to gravitate towards this profession and the field is sooo competitive that often, only the most obsessive and neurotic are given admittance to programs. I can’t speak for social work programs, but most of the practitioners I’ve met have been really weird people with weird agendas. But I DO believe that it is people with problems who are exactly the people who should be working in these fields because they understand first-hand what the patient is going through. It is important, however, that the therapist have worked out her issues to minimize the intrusion of said issues into her patient/client’s situation.
All said, there are tons of well-meaning women who gravitate towards the helping professions. Well-meaning doesn’t mean effective or correct, but it is a starting place. Men don’t often have even the correct starting place.
To speak more specifically about work with female victims of sex-based crimes (aka hate crimes against women), it is easy to understand why women get into it. Women want to help women. Therapists are often victims themselves. Oh who am I kidding, all women are victims of at least one sex-based offense and are exposed to male filth on a daily basis. Female therapists want to get in there and do some good. Are they going about it the right way? I don’t know. I don’t think most of women’s energy expenditure actually makes any progress towards ending male violence. But someone has to put on the band-aids, I suppose.
I’ve also known female therapists who’ve worked with rapists and men who sexually assault women and children. I can even understand why women gravitate towards this. The work is, of course, pointless. You can’t fix men, and you absolutely can’t fix a rapist. But again, women pour endless energy into trying to fix male problems that can’t be fixed. It’s a misplaced, erroneous belief in male ‘goodness’ (whatever) and a desire to keep women safe. *Sigh*
So we come back to men. I’ve written about men and the helping professions and volunteer work before. What could possibly bring men specifically into wanting to ‘help’ female victims of sex-based crimes? It boggles the mind. Men have little capacity for empathy, and I have never met a man who can wrap his head around the fear women live with daily as a result of forced proximity to men. So to deliberately be around and ‘help’ female victims isn’t a problem in their minds. The last thing women need after victimization by a man, however, is to be made even more exposed and vulnerable with a man controlling her aftermath. Male therapists must be looking for control or a vicarious experience or something. Perhaps they are invested in putting forth a male agenda in ‘managing’ female victims. Does he want to show that ‘not all men are bad’? How completely selfish and self-centred, if that is the case.
We have a new problem with aggressive MtT’s targeting battered women’s shelters and demanding to work there and be put into direct contact with female victims. They are becoming so self-centred and disrespectful that they are bringing law suits to fight for their right to access female victims. Why are they doing this? Is it an attempt to use women’s real experiences to build up their own sense of victimhood? Whatever they are doing, it is assault. It is disgusting. And it needs to be stopped.
Men also love to gravitate towards helping male sex offenders. I have personal experience with one of these creatures. I was taking a course in a form of counselling and was paired up by phone with a black, American, Christian man who headed up his own church and specifically helped rapists get on their feet after (unfortunately) being released from prison. He and I were to do ‘counselling’ sessions on the phone. He was controlling of me from the very beginning, and took advantage of my commitment to the course. He cancelled our sessions, let me do all the work, and would take other phone calls while we were in the middle of a counselling session. But he was smarmy, saying all the right things to smooth things over. If I were 20, I would have accepted the abuse and chided myself that as a WHITE woman, I supposedly was the privileged one. But I was older and well-versed in how all men have privilege over all women regardless of other group membership. Penis trumps vagina, regardless of race, every single time. One day, I called him on his repeated disrespect of me, and the truth came out. He attacked me mercilessly, and threw all the information I’d given him in my vulnerable state as counsellee in my face. And then he played the god card – he knew I was an atheist, and let me know I was shit because of it. Pure abuse. I suspect he was a ‘recovered’ rapist himself. I put my foot down, complained to the school, and only after my fellow student attacked the teacher was he thrown out of the program.
So, I suspect that sex offenders help sex offenders, and any man who gravitates towards therapy for female victims or male offenders is just there to perpetuate the system of abuse, keep the male agenda alive and well, ‘help’ women to put their experience in a compartment and not paint all men or the patriarchy as bad, and experience personal control and vicarious excitement over female victimization. I advocate for keeping men out of all professions where they have access to vulnerable women and girls.
I was 16 when I began carrying a weapon with me to go out.
Does that sound young to you? To me, it sounds old. Thinking about it now, I would have done well to arm myself when I was five and boys started beating me up because I had a cunt. I’m sure they just liked me, though. That’s what we’re told, anyhow. Love = Hate when it comes to boys and men – from birth.
But it turned out that 16 was the age at which I decided that carrying a weapon might be to my advantage. There had been many violent incidents in my life, but for the most part, those were committed by boys and men I knew or at least knew in passing. But at 16, I had a frightening encounter with a strange man, a stranger, and it scared me shitless.
Religious men and their cockpuppets are dangerous. Every policy, rule and regulation they have ever set up has been designed to hurt women and girls on some level. I’ve lost friends over my belief in this truth, even agnostic friends. It hurts their feelings, you see. But it hasn’t swayed me. Open the door a crack when it comes to men, religious or not, and they kick it open and rape you on your kitchen floor. So yeah, I take a hard line when it comes to men and the shit they invent – and religion is one helluva big man-turd that I refuse to accept.
I grew up in a town that didn’t give off the stink of religion, but we adhered to a strict policy of no Sunday shopping – Sunday being the Christian fuckers’ day of rest and all. As a result, the downtown core was a ghost town. Nothing happening. Very anti-social, anti-community. That’s religion for you.
But the downtown library was open in the afternoons. And being both an atheist (as far as a child can be a member of this type of ‘group’) and a very good student, I did frequent the library when project research needed to be done.
What I managed to do, however – and I’ll chalk it up to being eager – is fuck up the library hours. I thought it opened earlier than it actually did. I had caught a ride downtown with my father, who was headed off somewhere to avoid being with my mother. And I quickly discovered after he sped off that I was early by an hour. So I wandered around in what on all other late mornings was a bustling commercial area. On Sunday, it was a creepy, post-apocalyptic scene from a movie where you are waiting for the zombies to start crawling out of the cracks. After some unpleasant time killing, I realized the library was opening finally, and made my way back to it.
It didn’t take long to find the perv.
Now, this was a small city, not hicksville. But said perv was sitting there in his dirty pick-up truck beside the train tracks that ran by the parking lot that I needed to cross to return to the library. A middle-aged white guy. What the hell was he doing there? No coffee shops. No stores open. Nothing interesting to look at. Unless, it was a good spot to pick up young girls to abduct and rape. And given that that was exactly the scenario that I found myself in, I guess it was indeed a good spot.
He tried to verbally coerce me into his truck and made a move to open the door to convince me in a different way. I wasn’t having any of it. I ignored him and ran like hell towards the library. It could have gone horribly wrong. If I had encountered him an hour earlier when there were no friendly havens into which I could escape, would my fate have been different?
I was shaken, and after that point, for a spell, I started carrying a screwdriver with me. It did occur to me, even at 16 and even without anyone telling me that as a female, I had no rights, that I could get in trouble for carrying or using on an aggressor a knife or something that was distinctly a weapon. Prey usually know they are prey, even if they don’t come right out and acknowledge it. The worst part about the human prey known as girls and women is that we are NOT allowed to defend ourselves against male-predator aggression. All prey animals on earth, with the exception of human women and girls, are allowed to defend themselves when they are attacked, and to kill their attackers. It is a given. No one faults a mouse for biting when a cat attacks it. No one faults a bee for killing ants attacking her hive. Why do girls and women go to jail when we defend ourselves or do things to safeguard our bodily integrity, such as carrying weapons, or ensuring woman-only spaces are free of penises? With humans, predators ensure they are unopposed. Men ensure they are unopposed.
Anyhow, I carried that screwdriver with me knowing full well that I was doing so at my own risk. I was breaking the first rule of human predator-prey relations.
Luckily, the religious nuts lost their hold on the capitalist pigs. And really, who are we kidding? The religious and capitalists are pretty much one and the same. Always have been. And once they started raking in the extra dough from Sunday business, no one made a peep of complaint after that. The most important thing was that eliminating Sunday shopping bans eliminated an unsafe situation for women and girls.
Of course, religion allows pervs numerous other opportunities to abuse women and girls. But at least I could go to the library on Sunday without fear of abduction and rape in empty parking lots.
But we still had all the pervs IN the library. Another story…
I’m beginning a new series in my sidebar. It will be the Birth of a Feminist series, a record of what went into my formation, or I suppose I should say rebirth (given my understanding of feminism) as a radical feminist.
I was raised academically as a quantitative analyst. A boys’ club to be sure. Statistics are important in describing problems and in predicting outcomes, and being able to quantify things is useful to some extent for a variety of reasons. I was further raised in this tradition to pooh-pooh everything that seemed subjective or qualitative – we were ‘hard’ scientists in the ‘soft’ science of psychology – there was a lot of posturing needed, of course, to make sure *our* dicks stayed hard. This is how men roll. The unspoken rule was that that qualitative shit was the domain of women. Women and their experiences. Women and their stories. Women and their emotional ties to information. And I believed it for some time. I didn’t take my fellow graduate students in community and social psychology so seriously. After all, I was mapping the brain and quantifying male-defined forms of intelligence. I had access to numbers. I was using math. So there. We win.
And then years later, I went back to graduate school expecting to do more work in numbers and business and technology, and I found myself exposed to different forms of knowledge creating, dissemination and preservation. I learned about the art and value of story-telling. I learned about the complexities of non-quantifiable knowledge exchange. It was fascinating. I followed that academic degree with a year of research with a group of doctors and, more interestingly and importantly, qualitative analysts. Our work was in mixed-methods (quant and qual working together). I realized that numbers only take you so far. You need stories and personal accounts and understanding and sometimes including biases to truly explain reality. You need both. I felt I improved as a researcher. I was humbled. Humility is essential in a researcher. So I see value in stories. They have an important place in our record. Our early ancestors communicated this way, and somehow we moved away from it as men have come to dominate.
So anyhow, onto Genesis: my series on the (re)birth of a feminist.
the origin or mode of formation of something
Feminists, or women-centred women:
- are born;
- swiftly and relentlessly undone and subordinated; and then
- remade through
- experience resulting from
- systematic, impersonal misogyny through rape culture, and
- unique, chance encounters with particular individuals, times, places, and situations;
- and glimmers of remembrance of the collective memories of feminists-past lying in their subconscious.
- experience resulting from
Or something along those lines.
If I think about how I became a feminist, that is how I would describe it. I think all girls are born to be free. The majority (excluding those with the propensity for the nastier of the personality disorders) are born with the capacity to be free, intelligent, creative, empathic, mindful, and cooperative.
I think girls are born into the flavour of subordination dictated by their culture/patriarchy whereupon all members are subject to that culture’s indoctrination. But girls are also individually stripped of their birthright to feminism upon entry into the world when all the ‘cutesy’, protective, paternalistic, and dismissive, underestimating treatment particular to their family/group starts.
All girls test out rebellion – a natural response to the language-free remembrance of their real woman-defined purpose as women through what Jung* termed the ‘collective unconscious’ – in small ways. They defy gender-defined behaviour. They break rules designed for them as girls. And they are smacked down in a variety of ways – verbal, emotional, psychological, physical and sexual punishment. For almost all girls, this works effectively to keep them in their chains and then to do the work themselves to keep the chains in place unquestioned.
* [Note: I have little use for the misogynist, Jung.]
For others, for one reason or another, the punishment doesn’t take. The call of the wild, the natural, their real purpose is too strong. And they take a better, but harder, path. The one to feminism. Woman’s natural and rightful state.
This collection of stories was/is my path to feminism. Many of the punishments worked on me, but my feminism was always so close to the surface of consciousness, that in the end, I got back to where I belong.
Although our goals may be similar, there are two significant differences between serious feminists and superheroines. First, feminists wear comfortable, woman-friendly clothes. And second, unlike superheroines, feminists don’t usually have a clear, specific origin story. Rather, we have moments of clarity or realization. Moments that accumulate. Moments that may not become significant or actionable until later, sometimes in combination with other moments. Sometimes, it is a seemingly small event or moment that puts a lifetime of horror into perspective. You meet someone, you read something, you see or experience something that just makes you say ‘I see what is going on, and I’ve had enough’. It is a matter of right time, right place, and readiness/openness. Although it may happen, I think it is a rare woman who, like Athena, is born clad in full warrior gear.
In this vein, if asked when I became a feminist, I don’t think I could tell you. There have been many significant events that have made me what I am. And I’m still developing. I still make typical mistakes. That is gender programming. It takes a lifetime to siphon the poison from one’s personal psychology and behaviour.
I still remember an early formative moment. It’s something I think about 30 years later, and it still guides me. It’s not the most important formative event, but rather, one of many.
I was 13. It was a winter evening at about 9:30 pm. It was freezing, dark, snow everywhere. I had attended my father’s university lecture in psychology. We were driving home. I was sitting in the passenger seat in the front of the car, looking out the window.
And I saw her.
A woman being dragged by her hair across the snow into a bush. She was fighting, but not winning. The man who had her was bigger and determined. And it was late on a weeknight in the winter. There was no one around.
I shouted to stop the car. Startled, my father pulled over. I pointed and insisted. We intervened. The man ran off. We hustled the woman into our car and drove her home. She was mostly silent, but we learned her attacker was her ex-husband. I was also silent, emotions confused. I was learning something important. I realized that had I not seen her and done something, something BAD would have happened. But my understanding wasn’t nuanced.
And afterwards, my father, the brilliant psychologist, never spoke a word about it. I was not debriefed. Not counselled. I was left to draw my own conclusions. Possibly, he remembered having to intervene when his father beat his mother. No excuse though. When I look back at that child from the perspective of an adult, I’m shocked, saddened, and I wish I could go back to do damage control. But would I be what I am and do what I do if I’d not worked through that business alone?
A girl is exposed to explicit, real life violence – a stranger’s near rape/beating/murder. She plays a significant role in ending that violence, shares a space with the stranger for a few minutes, the significant connection between them left unarticulated, the silence controlled by another man, and then, and the child is left to wonder, to analyze, to worry, to fear. To build a schema.
It was only years later after many, many object lessons on what men were, thought about and did to women, after intervening in other near-rapes and beatings, that I realized that the woman I had saved years before was only temporarily safe. Temporarily safe from this specific man in her life, and generally, from all men no matter where or when. There is no beginning and end to violence for women. There are episodes in a lifetime of fear. And there are many lifetimes. This woman was one of millions and millions and millions through time. We are all that woman at some point. And to not be a feminist – to not want female freedom from male violence and control – is just not an option. For me.