I think consistency matters a lot in feminism – consistently condemning homophobia and threats of VAWG, defending sexual boundaries, talking clearly about the body and what it means. Picking and choosing for political convenience treats it as a hobby, not a moral imperative.
For the millionth time, biologically essentialist = thinking people with vaginas are born to be feminine / empathetic / maternal / subservient / decorative etc. Not biologically essentialist = having language to describe the political status of people with vaginas
Lesbians mounted a parade-stopping protest at London Pride today, July 7, 2018. They objected to the erasure of lesbians caused by so-called allies among gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations and individuals who forcibly rename lesbians as generic “queer people” and who demand that heterosexual men who sexually fetishize lesbianism must be accepted by same-sex attracted women as if they were actual lesbians.
The lesbians first gathered in front of the march, displaying their message. They carried signs and banners that read “Lesbian=Female Homosexual”, and “Lesbian Not Queer”, “Transactivism Erases Lesbians” and “Get the ‘L’ Out!”, among others. Then they lay down in the street, halting the parade and drawing attention. After a few minutes, they stood, and led the Pride March, remaining at the helm for the duration.
In this episode, I speak with Ninotchka Rosca, an incredibly accomplished activist and writer from the Phillippines. She is the author of six books, including two bestselling novels — The State of War and Twice Blessed (which won the 1993 American Book Award for Excellence in Literature) — a two-time recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and has written for numerous magazines and websites. She was a political prisoner under the dictatorial government of Ferdinand Marcos and went on to work with Amnesty International and the PEN American Center, drafting statements on women and human rights at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and the UN’s World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. A powerful anti-prostitution advocate, Ninotchka was press secretary of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery which convicted Japan’s wartime era leadership for enslaving and exploiting Asian “comfort women.”
Ninotchka founded and was the first chairperson of Gabriela Network, a US-based organization of women and women’s rights advocates supporting the Philippine women’s movement, which eventually became AF3IRM, a transnational feminist organization. AF3IRM’s national summit will be held on October 21st in New York City, and will look at the foundational ideas of American feminism — concepts and wisdom drawn from the tribal societies of this continent, particularly the Iroquois, with whom pioneers of the American women’s movement were in touch.
Part of New York’s radical press, the Rat combined left-wing politics with nudie covers and pornographic cartoons – directed, of course, by a male staff. In January 1970, a group of feminists ousted the editorial team and turned the paper over to their own concerns. This was where Robin Morgan first published her essay Goodbye to All That, a ferocious blast against the sexism of the left: “Goodbye to the male-dominated peace movement… Goodbye to the illusion of strength when you run hand in hand with your oppressors… Goodbye to Hip culture and the so-called Sexual Revolution.”
Morgan didn’t imagine that the men considered the Rat takeover significant. (“What the hell, let the chicks do an issue; maybe it’ll satisfy ’em for a while, it’s a good controversy, and it’ll maybe sell papers” runs an unoverheard conversation that I’m sure took place at some point last week,” she wrote.) But to the feminists, it mattered because Rat represented the “good guys who think they know what Women’s Lib, as they so chummily call it, is all about – who then proceed to degrade and destroy women by almost everything they say and do.” Rat stood for the political world where Stokely Carmichael could joke that “the only position for women” in activism “is prone”, and where Eldridge Cleaver could write about raping women as an “insurrectionary act” against the “white man’s law”. What Morgan took aim at in Goodbye to All That is what today I’d call ‘brocialism’ – a dismissive portmanteau of ‘bro’ and ‘socialism’ which describes the meeting place between left-wing ideology and virulent machismo.
Brocialism is the politics of the left that puts women last. Brocialism is when it just so happens, coincidentally, that the politicians who attract the most hatred for being ‘right-wing’ are also the female ones. Brocialism is saying we’ll get around to sex equality, but the revolution comes first.
Brocialism is sneering at middle-class women for hiring cleaners, but not at middle-class men who expect their wives to pick up their dirty boxers for free. Brocialism is the men who call themselves feminists, but seem to be more interested in telling women what they’re doing wrong than in giving up any of their own power. Brocialism is blaming the EU for depressing men’s wages – but not acknowledging that the EU has driven workers’ rights for women.
Brocialism is Owen Jones telling women who disagree with them that they’re on the “wrong side of history”. It’s Russell Brand offering a revolution in which women figure firstly as “your bird”. It’s the American Democrats who were so wedded to Sanders over Clinton that they ultimately helped to ensure that Trump won. It’s the men who sexually assaulted women in the Occupy camps, and the kangaroo rape trials of the Socialist Workers Party. It’s the abuse and death threats thrown by Corbyn supporters at female MPs deemed insufficiently loyal to the cause, such as Luciana Berger or Thangam Debbonaire. It’s Jeremy Corbyn wanting to overthrow capitalism, until it comes to women being prostituted, when he says that the only “civilised” option is a free market.
It’s also a tediously old phenomenon. When Mary Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Men in 1790, it was because she was wholly committed to revolution. She followed it with A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792 because she’d realised that revolution was a male-only affair. “Consider,” she pleaded, “whether, when men contend for their freedom, and to be allowed to judge for themselves, respecting their own happiness, it be not inconsistent and unjust to subjugate women.” It was not considered. As historian Rachel Hewitt explains, the woman question in the 18th century was fought mainly between the reactionary position that “a woman was the property of one man” and the radical belief that “she was the property of many”.
The same false choice persists. From the right, low-income women are coerced to remain chastely within the family (Iain Duncan Smith designed Universal Credit so that it would be paid to a single recipient in each household in order to “prevent family breakdown”, or, rather, stop women from leaving). From the left, the men at the top of the Labour Party propose full decriminalisation of prostitution – that is, not only ending the unjust criminalisation of women in prostitution, but also lifting all sanctions on the pimps and punters who exploit and endanger those women. For women, this means either having one master, or having several. There is no alternative here to subjugation.
Yet left-wing politics is supposed to offer alternatives. As the Scottish socialist Alasdair Gray wrote, it’s animated by a belief in possibility: “Our nations are not built instinctively by our bodies, like beehives; they are works of art, like ships, carpets and gardens. The possible shapes of them are endless.” Feminism shares that belief, which is why the movement’s key thinkers and activists have often (though not always) come from a radical or socialist background: because feminism is, ultimately, a radical project and a redistributive one. It is about claiming rights and recognition for labour: the unpaid domestic labour that’s worth 56% of GDP and of which women do 60% more than men; the labour of bearing and caring for children, without which there would be no people and no economy at all.
It is about taking away from men the unjust power they assert over women, and giving women authority over themselves. It is difficult to articulate just how transformative that would be. The sex-class system is so entrenched that people still clutch at the belief – despite all evidence – that something in our essential nature makes women domesticated and decorative, and men bold and competitive.
In The Dialectic of Sex, Shulamith Firestone described how “so profound a change cannot be easily fit into traditional categories of thought… not because these categories do not apply but because they are not big enough: radical feminism bursts though them. If there were another word more all-embracing than revolution we would use it.”
And this is why the left has ultimately so often failed to give feminism a home: because, whatever their position on the left-right spectrum, too many men have been and still are unwilling to surrender the dominance they have over women. Feminism has always stood against right-wing chauvinism, but frustration with the macho left has helped to form much of the women’s movement’s most important theory and activism.
We are a group of parents based in the UK, who are concerned about the current trend to diagnose ‘gender non-conforming’ children as transgender. We reject current conservative, reactionary, religious-fundamentalist views about sexuality and we have no political affiliation. We are also concerned about legislation which places transgender rights above the right to safety for girls and young women in public bathrooms and changing rooms.
We come from diverse backgrounds, some with expertise in child development and psychology, some who were themselves extreme gender non-conforming children and adolescents, some whose own children have self-diagnosed as ‘trans’ and some who know supportive trans adults who are also questioning recent theories of ‘transgenderism.’
Our work is voluntary, non-profit and unpaid, so we rely on personal donations to keep going. Our work includes research, travel to events, letter-writing (to government ministers, health professional bodies, the NHS, the BBC etc), media interviews, press releases, speaking and activism.
A lot of our work goes on ‘in the background’ in the form of private meetings, networking and consultancy. None of this is paid.
Transgender Trend Schools Resource Pack
We have developed comprehensive guidance for schools, in consultation with teachers, child protection and welfare professionals and lawyers. Our aim is to arm schools with all the relevant facts so that teachers feel more informed and confident in creating a safe school for all pupils, including non-conforming children and those who identify as ‘transgender.’ Our resource pack covers advice for school leaders, tips on how to create a school culture of acceptance of gender non-conformity without denying biological sex, communication, primary schools and secondary schools, existing safeguarding policies and guidance, the legal situation for schools, and a glossary of terms. We also include factual information about the social and medical transition of children, testimonies from young people who have desisted or detransitioned, and a statement from a teacher who has witnessed the increase in the number of young people identifying as ‘trans’ in their school. We have included a statement from the Lesbian Rights Alliance in recognition of the fact that the number of teenage lesbians who are choosing to identify as ‘trans men’ has recently grown so significantly.
Previously only available in downloadable format, we are now seeking funds to print hard copies of the pack, as these have been regularly requested by many teachers.
Additional funds will be used to cover exhibition materials, leaflets, attendance at conferences/events, ongoing website costs and legal fees.
Peter Stringfellow exploited women’s objectified bodies for profit, as though they were cuts of meat hanging in a butcher’s shop, and while it would be unseemly to rejoice in his death I do not mourn him, either. He was a pimp. The feminist writer Julie Bindel recalled that she called him a pimp to his face during a radio debate and that he went “berserk” and “demanded she apologise”. I find the prissiness of this astonishing: that this unsavoury sleaze could demean and degrade women so openly for so many years and then be upset to be called on it.
But that’s the thing: the “calling out”, as it’s called today, is considered rude. For some people, alerting them to their prejudices and/or exploitative practices is somehow seen as bad manners. I have no doubt that I will be in for a whole world of internet abuse for writing this piece. If I don’t get at least one rape threat it will be a miracle. There is a certain kind of man who loathes feminists who refuse to silently and passively accept a culture in which young women are paid to take their clothes off for male entertainment. When Suzanne Moore called Hugh Hefner a pimp, he threatened to sue. And yet somehow we’re the snowflakes.
Like Hefner and Paul Raymond, Stringfellow normalised sleaze. He took a sexually repressed society and began to turn it into a pornified one. I grew up in the “post-feminist” 1990s, the peak of laddism, when the corporate sex industry was such a standard part of capitalist consumption that if you challenged it, you were immediately dismissed as a hairy bra-burner with no sense of humour. Women were expected to laugh along when men boasted about getting wrecked and ending up in Stringfellows or Spearmint Rhino. There the foulness was packaged in hard, glossy surroundings; the sleaze was wrapped in shiny. But visit the kind of joint where all you had to do was pop a quid in a pint glass and you would see the industry for what it was.
It all paved the way for the dominance of pornography, for the conduct described by so many women as part of #MeToo and “grabbing them by the pussy”. The objectification rife in strip clubs bled into lads’ mags, a more contemporary version of the old man on the bus pretending to juggle teenage girls’ breasts. It made itself known in the boys at university who thought a grope was a greeting. The idea of consent workshops was mocked, but the lines had become so blurred they were necessary. Feminism was decades old but we were still being treated like meat. Even in this age of #MeToo, it’s still rarely heard just quite how disgusting young women find being drooled over by pervy older men, which happens to us from puberty onwards.
And as Moore wrote last year, part of Hefner’s Playboy mythology was “the idea that women do this sort of thing willingly”. But we all know that for the majority of women in the sex industry, it’s not so much a choice as a way of surviving. A stripper I spoke to once told me that the entire time that she was dancing for male gratification, she would repeat the mantra “fuck you, fuck you, fuck you” in her head. It was her way of coping. And yet, we continue to be told how innocent it all was, how liberating for women. As with Hefner’s death, the accolades and the RIPs come in from men, the pally anecdotes about his “sense of humour”. We hear the eulogising on the Today programme and by ex-lad male journalists who don’t realise how it makes them sound. So for the avoidance of all doubt, before I log off social media for a week: I see you, we see you. You’re disgusting, too. And that stripper’s mantra? She’s not the only one making use of it.