Identity, sexuality, spirituality, queerness, radical feminism, honesty

I have moved

Posted by Philomela on May 19, 2008

I’m going to respond to the comments over there (only not today, but I will respond promise)


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International day against homophobia

Posted by Philomela on May 17, 2008

As its International day against Homophobia today. I thought I’d write a post that I’d been thinking about for a while

Recently I was googling stuff on stuff that was queer affirming christian spirituality and I stumbled upon the true freedom trust website and it shocked the hell out of me. Its a website for Christians who are “struggling” with their homosexuality basically. Its affiliated to the evangelical alliance which is the UK equivalent of the Southern Baptist Convention with the associated wingnuttery and social, political and religious conservatism (the church I grew up in was a member.)

It just makes me so sad and so angry that there are still churches sprouting this shit, that a beautiful, powerful, intrinsic part of people is just wrong, Unlike some ex gay organisations TFT are not so much about the cure but about controlling the “urge” which in practice means that people who have homosexual “urges” don’t have any close same sex friends, which I personally think is heart breaking.

As a woman who has “homosexual urges” (lol!) but has chosen freely to probably not have sex with a woman ever again I would die without my female friends and female connections, because for me same sex attraction isn’t just about sex or even just about sexuality. I would wither on the vine without female friends.

There are some really really disturbing sad testimonies on this web site that just make me want to cry, one woman is talking about how she had feelings for women but had a boy friend as well who sounds like an overcontrolling fuck wit but the fact he doesn’t seem to respect her boundaries doesn’t register with her at all

I tried to end it with him several times but he just persuaded me to carry on. I fell head over heels for my next door neighbour in halls (Jemma) … This time I really was smitten and I wrote about her in my journal. Mark found my journal and read it

Then this

My life nearly derailed in 1991 when I was 23. I met a gay Christian woman called Cath and very soon became attracted to her and the feelings were mutual. …When she kissed me I didn’t resist but it didn’t go further than that. I had such a mixture of emotions. I felt I’d come home, that I was right about my original attraction, and that this was what I had longed for. However I also knew this wasn’t what the Lord wanted for me. I’d saddened Him and I knew I could never enter a physical gay relationship, or an emotionally dependent one without offending Him.

Its so so sad that two people who loved each other deeply couldn’t be together, that she’d been told what god wanted for her, that this type of Christianity doesn’t take into account the cultural specificity or the translation errors of the scriptures. Or the fact that the bible is not in fact inerrant and that Paul (who wrote most of the passages that are used to prohibit homosexuality) was a rabid fundie with appalling gender politics.

The same woman did eventually get married to a man

James sometimes asks me if ‘I’m OK’ with my female friends and I try to tell him if they’re ‘safe’ or not. God has blessed me with a circle of ‘safe’ friends but I do worry what will happen if I meet someone I become attracted to.

Seriously if my partner policed weather I was attracted to any of my female friends I would flip my shit, If i want to tell him who I’m attracted to I will, if I don’t I wont, and he doesnt care any way, one of my friends who I am attracted to and who is attracted to me, when she comes to stay with me we sleep in the same bed, and he doesn’t bat an eyelid because he trusts me (my relationship is consciously monogamous) that just seems to buy into the whole “people who aren’t straight have to have no control over their sexuality” thing

Another woman writes of her “healing”

But I ran into difficulties. My childhood years had been traumatic with violent male figures and no male/female happy family life. All of my 20’s were spent in the gay scene. My ability to relate to family life, men, how to dress appropriately, was poor

Lots of the testimonies and articles insinuate that women have lesbian feelings because of abuse, if that were true wouldn’t there be way more lesbians in the world? and what does “dressing appropriately” mean?

And this one from a mother who thinks shes doing all the right things but is failing miserably

He told us how much he loved his friend, which was really hard for us to hear…My heart went out to him and we both affirmed our love for him. But we also made it very clear that we could not condone his choice of lifestyle. At one point I said the day would come when we would feel able to meet his friend. I asked Michael just one thing – if they stayed under our roof that out of respect for his Dad and me they would refrain from any homosexual activities.

This really sounds like my parents immediate response to me coming out, like “we love you but we have to point out how sin full you are being” and calling his partner his “friend” and pressing how they were such martyrs because they would be working so hard to get to a point where they could meet his partner (actauly after the initial coming out my parents didn’t contact me for 18 months but that’s a whole nother story)

On the next day I tried to talk to Michael about the pain his Dad and I were feeling and I asked what he thought we should do about it. He was honest and said he didn’t know. But he was confused as to why we couldn’t be happy for him, because he was happy now we knew. The physical pain I felt was awful – it was like a knife had been plunged into me, and a heavy weight applied to my chest.

yes because clearly your son deciding to be true to himself and maximise his life full fillment should cause you pain

And it just pissed me off that the church is so backward, so rejecting of LGBT people, so unlike Jesus would have been. How is it ever okay to reject someone who is seeking spirituality or to force them to shut down a part of themselves if they want to remain in a spiritual community.even many of the churches that are not seen as extreme are still homophobic, and growing up in an extreme church while being queer is a nightmare. when you finally do come out it doesn’t actually matter how accepting people try to be because your whole life they’ve been assuming you aren’t queer and telling you everything thats wrong and sinfull with being queer, (seriously when I was about 15 my mother told us she didn’t want us wearing red ribbons for world aids day because gay men had only themselves to blame.)

And too many of us still grow up in this, too many people kill or hurt themselves because the church makes them choose between their sexuality and their spirituality, to many people get rejected by their friends, their family, sometimes their entire community because they are being true to themselves.

However I also found this video on youtube which is awesome

And i discovered Whosoever An excellent online magazine for LGBT Christians

Posted in Homophobia, sexuality, spirituality | 2 Comments »

Lets go round again

Posted by Philomela on May 15, 2008

So Debs wrote a post about Women only spaces. I thought really hard about writing this response because I didn’t want to cause more upheaval in the blogsphere than there needs to be but I felt that it was really important to make a stand against some of the things she said in it. I can obviously not speak from a transwomens perspective, but these are my thoughts from a trans supportive radical feminist perspective

I think there maybe times when cisgendered woman only spaces need to be available and I think that there are times when trans women only spaces need to be available but by and large I think women only spaces should be for cisgendered and transgendered women both and that trans women shouldn’t just be tolerated in them but should be actively accepted in them and be an inherent part of the organisation and structure of them.

I also don’t believe that transwomen have more privileged than cisgendered women, they are more at risk of violence, unemployment, homelessness than cisgendered women, not to mention prejudice from friends and family.

This is not an attack its a critique and I’m quite happy to have a dialogue about it with Debs or anyone else

To begin with Debs writes

When I first had the idea for a women-only radical feminist meet-up back in March of this year, I naively thought that everyone would naturally understand that ‘women-only’ meant ‘female-born women only’.

Maybe this is because lots of women who throw themselves into what they consider radical feminism often don’t actually know that much about feminist history and that there are lots of different strands of feminism and lots of them are supportive and inclusive of transwomen

I was dismayed to discover this was not the case, and some people thought transwomen had a right to attend the meeting. And that is what this issue comes down to; rights.

See I’m not convinced about that, I think what people often mean by rights is comforts and privileges.

She quotes from the London Feminist Network site:

“We are a women-only group because we believe it is vital that women have safe and supportive spaces where we can work together politically to campaign for our rights.
We are the experts on our own lives and on what it is to be a woman, in all of our various identities, in a society where we do not have equal political representation, where we are disadvantaged and discriminated against simply because we are women. All too many of us know what it is to experience male violence, including rape, domestic violence, sexual abuse, pornography, prostitution, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and so-called ‘honour’ crimes.

I have a lot of respect for London feminist network but this really sounds to me that they are saying that trans women don’t experience male violence, including rape, domestic violence, sexual abuse, pornography, prostitution, Statistically trans women are at more risk of male violence than cis women not less

[EDIT: acording to a woman who is on the email list for LFN, LFN are not trans exclusive and when they say “women only” they are including trans women in that]

Debs goes on to say that

Our work in women-only campaigns is not in exclusion of other types of political work and many of us are active in mixed groups for peace, against racism, anti-globalisation, lesbian and gay rights, environmental concerns, etc.

Fine, good but I think that’s like saying “its okay to be racist because I’m doing all this other good work, being elitist and prejudiced in one part of your life is going to effect all the other work you do for change negatively.

The approval of men is irrelevant to our self-organising, as much as the presence of men is obviously inappropriate at a women-only event

While I agree with this totally I don’t see what this has to do with transwomen in women only space seeing as transwomen aren’t men.

She quotes Women’s Space

“For one thing not all men who undergo srs do it because of ‘gender dysphoria.’ There are those who have extreme fetishistic desires to have sex as a woman but who do not describe themselves as having a ‘woman’s gender identity.’

How does she know this? Is she trans herself? Does she have trans friends and/or lovers, is she talking to trans women about this or just other people who are not trans friendly either.

Many straight men who undergo srs then go on to describe themselves as lesbian (because they still want to sleep with women)

Um, yeah maybe that’s because they weren’t straight men in the first place, women who are attracted exclusively to women are lesbians, and I don’t see what the fuck its got to do with anyone else anyway.

There’s a minority among them who are absolutely rabid about forcing & involving themselves on lesbians & in lesbian groups.

Like say oh, heterosexual women who claim they are “political lesbians” while still married to men? And anyway she says “A minority”. A minority of any group of people behaving like arseholes does not mean the whole group are arseholes . And where else are lesbian transwomen supposed to go than lesbian groups? Its really sad seeing oppressed people oppressing other people, and most of the lesbians I’ve met and most of the queer women spaces I’ve been in (which I’m pretty sure is way more that either Heart or Debs) are trans accepting and trans inclusive.

While they may see themselves as ‘lesbian’ for the most part many, many lesbians still experience them as men because they come with all their male privileges, expectations and attitudes towards women absolutely intact

How “many” exactly or is that just her and her transphobic friend, And really I hate this, do she really think in cisgendered only women’s space that peoples privileges and expectations don’t come in to play? That there is no able bodied privilege, white, privilege, class privilege that effect dynamics amongst cis women? There also seems to be no knowledge (unsurprisingly) of how masculinities are often played out in lesbian spaces.

Debs again

That is so well expressed, I could never have put it any better, “They may have changed the penis between their legs but the one in their heads is still fully operational.” Some might argue, and I would be one of them, that it is the penis in their heads that does the most damage to women. The physical body is almost irrelevant, what bits you’ve got, what bits you haven’t; what counts are the attitudes, the self-absorption, the sense of ownership over another’s body. They are the things, among others, that distinguish the ‘male brain’ from the female, and they are the things which keep women in a position of subordination to men.

Okay so the argument most often used by radical feminists against transitioning is that there is no such thing as gender, that there is no such thing as a “male” brain or a “female” brain so how does this even make sense? firstly attitudes are not inherent or hard wired they are learnt behaviours and can be unlearnt if necessary and I hate the assumption that all men everywhere are hard wired to be self absorbed and claim owner ship over others bodies
And really if people cant change their attitudes and behaviours then what the fuck are we fighting for?

Radical feminists, including myself on several occasions, have often been called “transphobic”. It’s a pretty lame and meaningless insult that seems to be hurled by some people as soon as they hear that a woman is planning a women-only event.

The use of “lame” an ablest insult there really pissed me off, and I did actually comment on this but she hasn’t changed it or even posted my comment or responded to it, so maybe unpacking her privilege doesn’t matter all that much to her,

Yes, it must be we who identify the membership in those groups, otherwise the entire meaning and purpose of the group is lost, which means there would be little point in continuing, little point in forming a group in the first place, little point in the group trying to achieve any of its aims

Who is we exactly? I am a feminist. I am a radical feminist, but I don’t agree with other feminists position on this, who decides who the gatekeepers are in these situations? Why is my voice less than other women’s voices, Why are the voices of trans women less than other women’s voices, and while we are at it who decided that it was impossible for transwomen to be radical feminists?

She quotes from the questioning transgender webside

“Exclusion is exclusion. At least that’s what boycotters or those angered over the festival’s women-only policies argue. Maybe that’s true. And in that case, exclusion is not necessarily a bad thing. One of the major traps that people in privilege fall into is not realizing that sometimes they will have to be excluded from certain groups, conversations and spaces. Exclusion is sometimes necessary to prevent the erasure of the specificity of difference. We all know that gender is a social construction; however, gender constructs are very real in that people are oppressed through them.”[emphasis Debs]

So the bit emphasised? I absolute agree with the statement, except its not relevant here, because trans women do not have more privilege than cis women. I feel there is real hypocrisy here. Debs has massive amounts of privilege, she is white, cisgendered, heterosexual, able bodied, maybe she should be interrogating the traps her privilege causes her to fall in to instead of telling people who, weather she want to acknowledge it or not, do have less privilege than her

quoting heart

. Some ought to get over themselves and learn the difference between critiques, analysis, opinions, politics and them. I can critique the hell out of your politics and your theories and ideas and go to the mat for you, love the hell out of you, and be willing to lay down my life for you. This is what any mother knows. This is what any lover knows. If you want to know how to critique and analyze the hell out of something without making it personal, try unconditionally fucking loving somebody, would you? Then you’ll understand. Maybe unconditional love is just so goddamn rare right now, nobody knows what it is any more. And if people don’t learn, then there will not be any revolution, not any time soon.”

while I pretty much agree with this I think its bizarre coming from a set of people who are always rejecting people for not believing the same things or doing the right things, people who don’t have other women’s backs no matter what, who belittle other women, who hurt other women, who ignore other women if they are the wrong sort of feminists or the wrong sort of women

many of these feminist don’t do unconditional love, they very much do “my way or the highway, we will express love and concern to you as long as you believe exactly the same thing as we do” they think its okay for them to decide who is the right sort of feminist or not. I have been on the receiving end of this, and you know what? it hurts, it sucks, it damages feminism.

Debs again

The Radical Feminist Spring Gathering is not for female-born women only out of any kind of fear or hatred or mistrust or disliking or victimisation or anything else of transwomen. As Heart says, the trans ‘issue’ is nothing to do with feminism

So why bring it up over and over again?

The gathering is an oasis in the desert of the male-identified society we live in, many women’s (unless they are seperatists) only escape in the year,

See I don’t even understand this. Yeah we live in a male identified society but that doesn’t mean that women only spaces happen when DEBS make them happen, I’m perfectly capable of creating women only spaces in my life and I do regularly, with women who shockingly are not exactly the same as me. Its not like women only spaces happened when DEBS arrived at feminism.

Posted in Privilege, transphobia | 35 Comments »

Thoughts on “The transformation of silence into language and action”

Posted by Philomela on May 14, 2008

As I said in an earlier post, I’ve been reading sister outsider by Audre Lorde and I Wanted to talk about her essay The transformation of silence into language and action because it really made me think about some stuff. She opens with

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.

I think about this a lot about, the things I’m saying, about what I’m not saying, about what I should be saying, and it comes down to in the end that there are things I should say, even if I don’t know how to say them, even if I don’t say them well, even if you don’t know how to hear me,

She gave this speech shortly after a cancer scare when the thought of dying had come front and centre in her life in a way most of us, most of the time are able to cocoon ourselves from

In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words.

I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you

And it brings up to me now that I am not in a place in my life where I would be killed for speaking up, for speaking my truths, for speaking up for others, the days when my life was in danger is long gone, but I am obviously going to die eventualy, and I don’t want to die knowing that there were things that should have been said, by myself for myself and for others

Silence when there should be words is a kind of lie I think, and if that lie is to keep yourself or other people safe, there is no shame there, no wrong there, but when the lie is to keep me comfortable then I don’t think that’s okay, firstly I think I have no right to that sort of comfort when I know my words could change things for someone or at least let them know I support them, And for myself comfort isn’t always the best path because comfort doesn’t teach us anything, doesn’t connect us,

Lorde says

But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.

And this is it isn’t it, for feminism to work, for social change to work, just for human relationships to work ,we need to connect, but that takes honesty with all the vulnerability that entails, because if we come to each other shadowed and masked then what is being presented will, not be reall, will not be something to hang on to. But it means we have to listen to each other, to listen to those whose voices challenge us and to speak things that we know will challenge others.

And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. But my daughter, when I told her of our topic and my difficulty with it, said, “Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.”

And she speaks of how we will only know the words we need when we speak them, and it is through speaking that we understand our lives and it is through words that we must challenge ourselves and each other we must hold ourselves and each other accountable for the work we are doing.

What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours?

This blog here is partly because I knew there was work I should have been doing that I wasn’t doing and to do that work I needed to move myself into a different space where I could both be more honest and more fluid. And I am afraid, afraid of vulnerability, of exposure, of loss, of judgement but she says

And it is never without fear — of visibility, of the harsh light of scrutiny and perhaps judgment, of pain, of death. But we have lived through all of those already, in silence, except death.

This comes down to me hard especially since someone in the blogsphere wrote a post that I disagree with that is prejudiced and ignorant about a group of people that neither myself nor the blogger who wrote the post belong to, that I really want to refute but that I’m scared of doing for the fall out that it will cause because of the reactions of people who are not going to agree with me but that I also consider friends

And it should come down to all of us hard, because I don’t think any of us are really good at telling the truth, we live in a world that both expects us to be both fractured and smooth, so we have to hide our completeness, our complexity and connections from each other and often from our self. And I know I at least have not been as good as I should have been at breaking silence when other people are being oppressed or are in danger.

There are some silences, I can not, will not break, especially around issues concerning my family, I will speak of them here sometimes, but not to my family because there are no salvageable connections there anyway, and my honesty has always been used to wound me. but there are other silences that will be broken here, things that I will think about and explore that may make me uncomfortable and may make my readers uncomfortable and angry.

we have had to learn this first and most vital lesson—that we were never meant to survive. Not as human beings. And neither were most of you here today, Black or not. And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength. Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and ourselves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned. we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.”

I think this is really important, our survival is not promised, is even often not wanted, because what is wanted is cogs in the capitalist machine that can be ground down and spat out, but it is our speaking our honesty that makes at least our emotional survival more likeley. And I also think if we can find time and space and words and noise enough to make someone else’s survival more likely then there will have been a point to all this.

And where the words of women are crying out to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own.

And then this, that for much of the time I have been not so good at, searching out and seeking other women’s voices, women who aren’t me, who aren’t positioned as I am, women who have things to say that are not about my life, women who often have less privilege and more oppressions than me, women with whom I disagree with, but I am getting better at it I think, I am more opening to listening and reading and searching for other women’s voices

Audre Lorde:The transformation of silence into language and action From Sister Outsider P40-44

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

I live here now, thoughts on loosing able bodied privilege (Part One)

Posted by Philomela on May 11, 2008

I have something or several things wrong with my legs, it hasn’t been exactly clarified what yet, but the symptoms are pain in the joints of my feet, knees and ankles and cramping and spasming in my leg muscles, the pain has been increasing for about four years now and it has got to the point that I need a mobility aid of some sort if i want to go any distance or go anywhere that would usually involve standing up/queuing/waiting

And it kind of struck me what an absolute pain in the arse the whole thing, is, not actually being disabled, i can mostly deal with that (thought I’d like not to wake up with such bad leg cramps that they make me cry like they did last night thanks) but living in a world that wasn’t made for me, that ignores me or patronises me.

I went for a drink with some friends the other day and as I was taking my wheelchair for the first time we couldn’t go to any of our usual haunts because none of them are wheelchair accessible. and seriously I spent quite a long time online looking for somewhere we could go, I did find a list of wheelchair accessible pubs in the centre of Cardiff but half of them don’t have wheelchair accessible toilets, what is even the point of that? so wheelchair users can go there as long as they don’t need the loo!

Often I’ve found wheelchair accessible toilets are used as storage space anyway so its actually really hard to manoeuvre a wheelchair in there, I went to one pub in which the sanitary disposal bin was way out of arms length from the toilet, while this isn’t an issue for me because when I, infrequently, have a period, I use a moon cup, but what the hell is a woman who uses disposable sanitary protection supposed to do? personal I’d just flush it and not give a shit if it clogs the pipes but that’s not the point the point is theres a kind of “look at us and our accessibility, but we cant actually be bothered to think about what you need” mentality there. Getting into the same pub was pretty much impossible because there was enough of a step for me not to be able to wheel up it, a passer by had to help me.

Sometimes being obviously disabled turns me invisible, twice I’ve been on a train with my crutches and no seat and no one offered me their seat, and sometimes something about just being visibly disabled just pisses people of, they get this really defiant blank look on their faces, like I’m demanding something of them just by my presence.

Once I get fit enough in my arms using a manual wheelchair will actually be much, much easier for me than using crutches, because even with crutches I still have leg pain, but also because with crutches i cant hold anything, carry, anything, pick anything up, and maneuvering with crutches, for reasons to do with my spacial awareness and coordination issues, is actually more difficult for me than maneuvering a wheelchair

but apart from wheelchairs being harder to get into places many able bodied people seem to have an idea of a hierarchy of disability which has nothing to do with the disability itself but with the things you use to deal with the disability, using crutches seems to be seen as making me less disabled than me using a wheelchair, when actually the disabilities the same but I’m actually more able (or will be once I’ve increased the muscle strength and stamina in my arms) with my wheelchair

And then there are the times I am tacked on as an afterthought, by people who should know better, by people who are supposed to be on my side, people who are supposed to be fighting privileges, oppressions, power structures, tacked on as a “oh well if its accessible for you, you can come along” and that really fucking sucks, I am not by and large expecting the world to be on my side but I was expecting people who were supposed to be on my side to actually be on my side

All this has been one hell of a shock, it has really changed the way I think about people, about myself, about prejudice, privilege, power, its really made me think about the way I relate to other people with different oppressions from mine.

Posted in disability, Privilege | 7 Comments »

No, actualy this isn’t my feminism

Posted by Philomela on May 9, 2008

I spent most of yesterday reading Sister Outsider by Audre Lourde and Blood Bread and Poetry by Adrienne Rich and they blew me away, I was moved by ther honesty, their compassion their love for other women, the fluidity of their thoughts and their willingness to dialogue with other women that’s didn’t always agree with , and they wilingness to unpack there own attitudes, and the fact that they realised that calling oneself a feminist was a starting point not an end point ,

And they wrote about a whole stack of different issues, race, sexuality, motherhood poetry ,anger, history, honesty, safety, silence. Rich, thick, deep writing about stuff that really matters then and still really matters now and I was just drinking it in, infusing myself with it and as Iiswas doing the I was also thinking “What the fuck happened , where did this all go, how did we loose this ?”

I was talking later to some feminist friends and ranting about the current State of rad Feminism and how this wasn’t what I signed up for inasmuch as ‘signed up” for anything. I didn’t want a Feminism that was exlusitory, elitist, refused to examine its own privilege and atitudes, and had a very narrow agenda, I wanted a feminism that was about love and listening.

One of my friends Suggested that actually maybe there were two main branches of radical feminism. One branch Came from women such as Rich and Lourde and Hanich and Millet, women who did have other women’s interests at heart, who didn’t think you could use represive state laws to make things better for women, who listened to other women, who were far from perfect but who were mostly honest and oudward looking and understood that women were fluid.

Then later came another group of feminists such as Dworkin, MacKinnon and Jefferies who seemed to have a very narrow agenda, who decided there were certain ways that “real” feminists (and in the case of Jefferies “real” lesbians) behaved, I have read lots of both Jefferies and Dworkin and I like some of the things they say but I really dislike the idea that their ideas are right, are set in stone, I really dislike the solid unmoving rigidity of their positions, I really dislike the feeling that they think disagreement and discussion is anti feminist, and the way that there doesn’t seem to be much self reflection. I also think with this sort of feminism it totally isn’t taken into account that women are complicated, that we don’t all come from the same place, that we create ourselves and survive in different ways. This kind of feminism and its adherents also seems to be allergic to even listening to women with different views and there doesn’t seem to be the emphasis of working through stuff together, at looking how we are situated can make us blind to other women.

My feminism comes much more from feminists such as Rich, from who I drink deep, and learn from and challenge myself with, although I am influenced by Jefferies, Dworkin et all I do not consider them my inheritance in the same way I consider other radical feminists.

I was searching for stuff about the differences between Rich and Dworkin and I found this,

Others more deserving of the badge of radical feminism, such as Adrienne Rich, have developed thoughtful and constructive critiques of heterosexuality as a compulsory institution. Such contributions have an important place in our evolving socialist/feminist theory and practice; they enrich our understanding and provoke critical questioning.
In contrast, MacDworkinism offers us nothing liberating; its emotion-laden screed comes down to nothing more sophisticated than “pornography is bad, sex is dangerous, and men are violent.” Positing that words and pictures cause violence and oppression, it scrupulously avoids any meaningful discussion of the root causes of these social problems.
In the real world, this version of “feminism” has disaffected countless women who do not experience male violence as the defining characteristic of their lives, and has distracted countless others from the economic and political battles we should have been fighting while we have been squabbling about “pornography.”

To be honest male violence has been one of the defining charcteristics of my life but it is far from my only issue and i’m also really aware that other women have other diferent issues also

This explains why I have been so frustrated with radical feminism/radfems lately because there is an assumption that we are coming from the same place and belive the same things when actually we are on very different tracks that often don’t meet in the middle. Its like we’re speaking the same langauge but the words meant differnt things.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Puppet Mistress

Posted by Philomela on May 6, 2008

You come like a
tornado, huricane, cylcone
tearing up the paths that other women laid
with their bare hands.

I have seen you too many times
drop nails into my sisters palms and feet
and tie that rope round,
forcing them through a fear I don’t understand
to pull off the arms and sew up the mouths of other women.

I have licked the wounds of other women,
younger women, softer women,
after your puppet army
carved jaged scars across
their eager learning eyes

we can not leave this unspoken
we can not leave this unturned.

I am not expecting calmness
but we do not need these storms

Posted in Poetry | 5 Comments »

Down to the Grass Roots

Posted by Philomela on May 6, 2008

Today I went and did some training so I can be a volunteer for women’s aid, while this isn’t totally altruistic because I need to do some voluntary work because I’ve been out of the job market for such a long time, it has always been really important to me to do voluntary work for issues that I care about and i want to bring my feminism and my activism back down to the baseline, I feel like I’ve grown out of the whole banner waving protest thing, the feminist group I was helping run is changing direction from where it was going and so needs less input and I feel need to do my feminism differntly, I need to make a difference to individual women as well as women in general.

Most people reading this will know the obvious statistics about Domestic violence but they gave us a handout with loads of others and I’ve picked some out here because they are ones that maybe are not so known about

• Domestic violence accounts for between 16% and one quarter of all
recorded violent crime. (Home Office, 2004; Dodd et al., 2004; BCS,
1998; Dobash and Dobash, 1980)

• In any one year, there are 13 million separate incidents of physical
violence or threats of violence against women from partners or former
partners. (Walby and Allen, 2004)

• 54% of UK rapes are committed by a woman’s current or former partner.
(Walby and Allen, 2004)

• Partner violence accounts for a high proportion of homicides of women
internationally: between 40% – 70% of female murder victims (depending
on the country) were killed by their partners/former partners, whereas the
comparable figure for men is 4% – 8%. (Krug et al. 2002)

• At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. (Department
of Health, 2002).

• 70% of children living in UK refuges have been abused by their father.
(Bowker et al., 1998

• A survey of 130 abused parents found that 76% of the 148 children
ordered by the courts to have contact with their estranged parent were
said to have been abused during visits: 10% were sexually abused; 15%
were physically assaulted; 26% were abducted or involved in an abduction
attempt: 36% were neglected during contact, and 62% suffered emotional
harm. Most of these children were under the age of 5 (Radford, Sayer &
AMICA, 1999)

• In a study by Shelter, 40% of all homeless women stated that domestic
violence was a contributor to their homelessness. Domestic violence was
found to be “the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless”
(Cramer and Carter, 2002).

• 70% women psychiatric in-patients and 80% of those in secure settings
have histories of physical or sexual abuse. (Phillips, 2000; Department of
Health, 2002).

• 1 in 5 young men and 1 in 10 young women think that abuse or violence
against women is acceptable. (Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust, 1998).

• 30% of domestic violence starts in pregnancy. (Lewis and Drife, 2001,
2005; McWilliams and McKiernan, 1993)
• Domestic violence has been identified as a prime cause of miscarriage
or still-birth (Mezey, 1997), and of maternal deaths during childbirth
(Lewis and Drife, 2001, 2005).

You can see more here

I asked about their position o transwomen and they said that if a woman had had gender reassignment surgery and considered themself a woman then they would take them, while there are still issues here for women who haven’t had reassignment surgery It was good to see that there wasn’t the anti trans stance that is often presumed in refuges,

I also asked about women who have No recourse to public funds and they said that although they couldn’t take them the referred them on to BASWO who do have the resources to help women in that position.

For myself, i don’t know too much about domestic violence from a partner, I know about different types of abuse from parent figures and I have had some instances of domestic partner abuse and I vacillate from saying they dont count to thinking maybe I minimise them

My first serious relationship was with a man/boy (we were 16) who was arrogant and selfish and my boundaries were fucked due to life experiences so he used to continue pawing me till I gave up and let him have sex with me, he would push me around physically and then tell me I was overreacting if he said he hurt me. he would “play” wrestle with me, even when I told him I didn’t want to do it. I only stayed with him so long because the rest of his family was lovely to me.

I also had a relationship with a woman who was belittling and controlling and on one occasion threw me across a room and threatened to kill me and I haven’t ever really processed that, partly because I never feel I have anywhere to take it because either people think that women in lesbian relationships don’t have those experiences or they think experiences like that “prove” that lesbian relationships are deviant.

Anyway I have some more training next week and I have to fill in the relevant police check forms and then I can start working for them.

Posted in Activism | Leave a Comment »

Porn!Porn!Porn!Porn!Porn! (or not)

Posted by Philomela on May 2, 2008

Lots of branches of feminism are involved in anti porn or anti prostitution activism in one way or another, and I was for a while and I did some stuff, and I tried to get some stuff of the ground which didn’t happen, but now I think I’m done with it. Firstly I don’t want to talk and read about porn and prostitution all the damn time (especially the sort that anti porn campaigners talk about) it uncovers unhealed wounds and it stops me having space to think about what I think about sexuality, it stops me having space to examine, reweave and heal my still extremely damaged sexuality.

I also have real issues with the fact that at many feminist blogs and gatherings the only things that gets talked about are porn, prostitution and rape and while those things are important I think it is both hypocritical and dishonest to only work around those issues, because It means we don’t have to examine ourselves, we don’t have to examine our privileges or the way we oppress other women, we don’t have to think about the way war kills more women than porn, or the way bad business practices that we partake in every time we buy cheap goods kills more or damages more women than porn.

Also if we are working on issues around porn it almost seems to give us an excuse not to interrogate our “isms” like “oh but I’m doing this for women why are you criticising me for being classest/racist/ablest?” etc but I think no feminism or no work to change the system is going to turn out the way we want it to until we stop behaving and reacting in patriarchal ways and that’s never going to happen unless we examine our privileges, whatever else we are doing

Also there are other women who I want to work with and who I will work with on other issues who have a really different stance than me on the issues of prostitution and porn and if we make that the lynch pin issue nothing else will get done.

I also don’t think its porn that upholds the patriarchy, I pretty much think its patriarchy, that upholds the patriarchy and I don’t think if porn and prostitution were eliminated the patriarchy would fall, there is so much other work to be done.

So I’m stoping writing about porn, stoping reading about porn and stoping working on anti porn stuff

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Anya speaks truth to power

Posted by Philomela on May 2, 2008

From Empty Places, season seven

(I personaly hate this episode the characterisation was sacrificed for the plot but I always thought this was a brilliant explanation of privilege)

(looks around) Look, I wish this could be a democracy. I really do. Democracies don’t win battles. (Xander looks away) It’s a hard truth, but there has to be a single voice. You need someone to issue orders and be reckless sometimes and not take your feelings into account. You need someone to lead you.
(calmly) And it’s automatically you. (looks at Buffy) You really do think you’re better than we are.
No, I –
But we don’t know. We don’t know if you’re actually better. I mean, you came into the world with certain advantages, sure. I mean, that’s the legacy.
I –
But you didn’t earn it. You didn’t work for it. You’ve never had anybody come up to you and say you deserve these things more than anyone else. They were just handed to you. So that doesn’t make you better than us. It makes you luckier than us.
I’ve gotten us this far.
But not without a price.
Xander –
I’m trying to see your point here, Buff… but I guess it must be a little bit to my left… (shakes his head) ’cause I just don’t

Posted in BtVS Geekery, Privilege | 9 Comments »