Gearing up for something longer and intense. But I absolutely must send out radical e-appreciation for a fellow blogger and sister, kaguyamouse. In my prolonged absence from my site, I’ve only just discovered you despite you having been here. Thank you for your writings, which I enjoy immensely. I get you, I feel the isolation, and I know well the feeling of being a stranger in a land that shouldn’t be strange, but that so frequently is. Our common, comfortable land and small tribe are currently online in these spaces we populate through writing, as long as they are allowed to be there.
Outcast: a person who has been rejected or ostracized by their society or social group.
We are taught that balance is a good thing. And, for the most part, I’d agree with that. In many areas of life, moderation – a sister of balance – keeps you healthy. Don’t eat too much of one thing and make sure you get a little of all the vitamins. Don’t sleep too little or too much. Overexercise will injure you, but doing nothing will destroy your health. Don’t work too much or play too hard. Etc.
Achieving balance or moderation is a matter of compromise, in my opinion. And we compromise constantly to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But is compromise, moderation or balance always a good thing? I’d argue that no, it is not. Sometimes, compromise is an attack on your convictions or beliefs. To compromise on what you believe, is, in my opinion, to live a lie. This is counter to what almost every person in every society on the planet will tell you. Compromise is the key to getting along in society; the key to relationship maintenance. If you are a moderate, non-thinking sort of person (sorry, I find that those people who are best liked and most popular tend not to have much to say on anything and don’t think too deeply about issues or righting wrongs), you do just fine. It is easy for this kind of person to compromise because they are not deeply invested in anything except not rocking the boat. To compromise, they really aren’t giving up anything important. When you won’t compromise on your beliefs, you find yourself slipping farther away from mainstream society, until you realize you are an outcast. And it really doesn’t take much to become an outcast. Imagine what happens if you even hint that men are the cause of 99.9% of the violence in our world, and that things would be better if they didn’t exist… In some places, that kind of heretical thinking might get you killed, nevermind outcast status.
I’ll come back to that.
So, I’ve been offline for about a month. Not just a ‘not writing’ kind of offline, but I went so far as to make my site private. Apologies if you came by only to find yourself barred access. I’m back online, now. You see, I found myself at a fork in the road. Not an unusual occurrence. I frequently assess my life and decisions, and this occasions a pause while I figure out what to do. For the most part, I’m an all-or-none kinda gal. I try to maintain balance in certain areas of my life – I have achieved ‘balance self-awareness’, but seldom balance itself. It’s a struggle. But I’ve come to see that there are situations where balance (aka ‘compromise’) is just not a good thing at all. For me. It has made me an outcast. I do have friends, but I’m not sure that there are more than one or two people with whom I can have a truly honest conversation about uncomfortable stuff. Most of my relationships are based on compromise – or lies. I suppose this is normal. Each person in your life serves a different function. Is requiring all friends to have a working knowledge of gardening any different than requiring all friends to be able to talk to you in depth about patriarchy or to be 100% truthful about beliefs? I don’t know; I understand less and less about what friendship is supposed to be the older I get. But blogging is not a relationship, so the idea of writing publicly without speaking truth makes no sense to me. Why have a blog if you write bullshit you don’t believe just to please the faceless masses?
Funnily enough, I have spent most of my life, working in service-based jobs – work based on helping and relating to humans. I’ve spent many years teaching. But I’ve done other service-related jobs as well. I’ve always wondered why dealing with people steals so much of my energy, even though I do get a certain amount of pleasure from helping people. The latter I think is due to the lady-brainwashing that is forced on all girls from birth – we exist to serve, and we take our happiness from making others happy. Gawd, how many times have I heard a woman parrot those mantras, and I note how I’ve never heard it from a male (since they exist to take, steal, use and destroy rather than serve). The energy sapping part of my work in service is partly due to being an introvert, but a lot of it, I think, is that I have to present a facade in order to do the job well. I have to hide so much of who I am in order to deal with people, in order to make them feel comfortable. But this is how I earn my pittance. It is ‘work’. Blogging is a leisure activity, and it should be to please myself, yes?
So as I set my blog to private and began to contemplate whether to continue, I asked myself how I had gotten to this point. I suppose being aware of what is happening in the world brings me down. Sometimes, being aware of the fact that I will never live in a world where I or any other female is free is depressing. Sometimes, knowing that I can never fit into a feminist community because I don’t compromise in order to please liberal agendas puts a damper on my writing activities. And on this particular occasion, the awareness that my blog is becoming more and more popular with men (I logically assume) who are looking for videos of white women being raped by Muslims and/or Arabs kind of kills my soul. The search terms used to find my site – and every woman who writes publicly has the same experience – confirm to me that men as a class are pure, dangerous, rapey filth. And so, as all of these realizations build up and fester, I wonder what the point of writing is. And that’s what was going on.
But examining purpose is a good thing, and I brought myself back. I realized it is important for me to keep writing and to remember why I started writing in the first place. Heck, I set out my purpose in my ‘About‘ page. The mission never changed and is still the same. Perhaps I need to read it more often and remind myself of who I am. I also realized I am under no illusion that I’ll ever be part of even a non-mainstream feminist community, which is okay. So, I’m not writing to make friends or be a part of something officially. The purpose of my writing is two-fold. First, I write to get stuff out. Some feminists pooh-pooh blogs that relate personal stuff. I’m not one of those. I think it is important for feminists to talk about their experiences and to express themselves in whatever way works for them (writing, speaking, painting, sculpting, dance, etc.) and it is important to read about other women’s experiences. If you want an ‘academic’ or ‘clinical’ feminist blog, have at it. I read some of those too. Myself, I’m a mix. Not all of my posts are navel-gazing (like this one), but they are there. And I tell you this month of not writing has been torture, to be honest. The impulse has been there and very demanding, but I didn’t allow myself to do it – not even non-feminist content. And getting back to it, and being aware of the sensations that accompany it, I can say that I write to cleanse my brain and take joy from the writing process.
My second purpose is that I write because I know how important it is to have stuff to read and think about when you are a budding feminist looking for answers or paths to pursue. And it is good to have a variety of things to read, even things you don’t agree with. I remember back when I was reading everything I could get my eyes on. Reading different viewpoints helped me understand and clarify what I, myself, believed. I especially enjoyed reading things that challenged me or made me angry. I have no doubt that I write things that make people annoyed or uncomfortable or pissed off, and that is good. I don’t write for feedback on this as I have enough stress in my life without backlash adding to it all. I just know I can be provocative and that is enough. Only in that way can people understand themselves better and to know that there are a variety of viewpoints and experiences. We are all ignorant beings, and anything different we encounter chips away at that ignorance and makes us think (hopefully). Although not a primary goal, if my writing manages to convince a feminist-in-the-making (or even an experienced feminist that doesn’t realise she is actually supporting the patriarchy) that her actions don’t exist in a vacuum, that is cake.
So, I continue to write. I’m back, and I may churn out some controversial posts in the future. What the hell is the point, otherwise? I’m already an outcast, and the ethical gymnastics required for me to be able to compromise and get along with the mainstreamers at this point would hurt me more than help me. I support female freedom, but feminism really is still in its infancy and women – even feminists – have completely internalized woman-hate despite what they may say. As such, feminist communities are fragile and volatile things. As I’ve witnessed online many a time, women aren’t yet at a point where they will unconditionally support one another. One wrong word, and fellow feminists who had your back suddenly attack you and beat you to death. No thanks. I’m okay with my one-woman show, writing what I truly believe, not giving a shit who disagrees with me, and reading a select group of fierce women who also persist without ideological compromise.
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 read a lot of feminist blogs. Most of them are ‘small’ blogs, by which I mean they don’t pull in the thousands or millions of hits per day that porn sites do. But, in my mind, they are significant and vital to my life. I’m pleased to say that the many blogs I read and/or follow are just a tiny fraction of all the ‘small’ feminist blogs out there. I believe that strength does indeed come in numbers, and I’d rather scores of small voices sending the same radical message than one or two well-followed voices singing a weak and confusing song.
Most of the blogs I read do a few things. First, they talk about ideas. They may do this through an essay on theory, theory in practice, the relevance of themes, commentary on political or social events, etc. The other thing these blogs may do from time to time is to talk about personal experience. The experience may be provided as an example of an idea, or it may just be the relation of a personal story that is of significance to the blogger. Whatever the motivation, I enjoy both. I like the former because better writers than me may help clarify my thinking on things or may put a different spin on something I believe, or may introduce me to something I’ve really not thought about before. I enjoy the latter because I see the human in the writer. I sometimes find I’m not alone in having experienced something. I find ways to put words to the horrors that are womanhood under Patriarchy.
One thing I’ve noticed is that most radical feminists have done things and still do things that are decidedly anti-feminist whether they be acts of femininity adoption or subjugating oneself in a multitude of ways in a heterosexual relationship in order to preserve it. And there can be a lot of shame and guilt in the knowledge that one has capitulated. Shame and guilt for being a woman and then shame and guilt for giving in to femininity mandates. And then there is shame and guilt for not giving in to femininity requirements and hurting a poor boy’s feelings. We often end up giving in by apologizing for our militancy. Can’t win.
I like it when feminists write about these thousand daily humiliations. Confession is good for (I don’t believe in the soul) our social and intellectual development. I think by writing about them, we become more mindful of how we survive. We can measure our awareness and progress. Self-analysis of how we think and how we compromise our beliefs (or hold true to them) is important to the evolution of a being and a feminist.
To all writers of ‘small’ feminist blogs who wonder why you keep writing – you matter. You matter to your own personal development, and you matter to your audience, no matter how large or small, who are looking for validation, inspiration and kindred spirits and a reason to go on and/or start their own confessional.