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There seems to be confusion about the definition of feminism, aided by quotable celebrities who have become vocal on the issue. “If you stand for equality, you’re a feminist,” according to Emma Watson. In response to criticism for her topless photo shoot for Vanity Fair in March of this year: “Feminism is about giving women choice. It’s about freedom. It’s about liberation. It’s about equality.”

If these mantras sound friendly and palatable, it is by design. Modern feminism has been reconstructed through individualistic rhetoric which largely ignores the social constraints of male rule. It’s interesting how Watson’s choice to objectify herself reflects exactly what men would have women do, anyway: instead of being forced to be objectified for male consumption, women can now enjoy the freedom to choose objectification. In this way, it is implied that our oppression becomes empowering if one chooses it. Neoliberal feminism, which uses terms like gender equality and choice, focuses on individuals rather than systemic sexism, and rejects analysis of how choices impact society . It is at best, misguided, and at worst, used to produce outcomes that are actively anti-feminist and more closely resemble rhetoric from the men’s rights movement than the women’s movement.

More recently, in light of the many women who have come forward about being sexually harassed or assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, Watson posted to twitter: “In this instance it was women affected but I also stand with all the men, indeed any person, who has suffered sexual harassment.”

Watson’s remarks demonstrate the popularization of the concept that feminism is synonymous with equality. As we can see from her reaction to the Weinstein ordeal, this way of viewing women’s struggles lends itself to the dilution of the women’s movement and results in her desire to apologize to men when commenting on issues that directly and unevenly impact women’s lives. In her recent comments, it becomes clear that within the trend towards making the women’s movement more palatable to the mainstream, it is necessary to ignore a core principle of feminism: we live within a system of patriarchy, which is male rule, and the mistreatment of women and girls is intended to keep us in a subordinate position to men. Feminism is not about making women, or men, comfortable within the current structure of male rule, nor do we need to center men in our movement.

Men created patriarchy and benefit from it; otherwise, they would fight with us to end it. Women have enough to do for ourselves without adding the emotional labor of trying to lift up men, who certainly have more power than we do to affect change. Suggesting women do so implies that our demands for the betterment of our lives are not valid unless men are involved; that we do not exist independently as humans with different experiences; and relies on sexist expectations of women as caretakers: our emotional labor must be given for free, otherwise, we are selfish.

Watson, as a UN Goodwill Ambassador and spokesperson for the “He for She” project, has given several speeches redefining the women’s movement as one for equality between the sexes. The top comment on a video of one of her speeches reads:

“What feminism is: the call for woman and men to be treated equally. What feminism is NOT: saying women are better than men and men don’t deserve the attention women do. If you don’t understand the meaning of feminism, please, stop and educate yourself.”

In other words: if women do not talk about helping men, we are selfish. When we focus on ourselves and the unique ways patriarchy destroys and subordinates women and girls, we are in need of being educated. When women demand more for ourselves, we are deviant and morally flawed.

Gender Equality Ignores Women’s Struggles

The term gender equality, while it sounds pleasant enough, is damaging to women’s ability to effectively challenge the common barriers that all women, to some extent, experience within their lifetimes. Women do not exist as a gender, we exist in female bodies; gender is a term for the socially constructed stereotypes of masculine and feminine, a hierarchy created by men to assign attributes as fixed to biology. This was a rationale created by men to justify the exploitation of women.

When we define feminism as gender equality, what we are really advocating is equality within the system of gender — equal respect for masculinity and femininity — and not for living, breathing people who exist. Gender equality as a term removes women, who are bodily subjugated, and often done so through the gender constructs which rationalize our oppression. In every aspect of our lives we are policed: existing in public is enough to invite harassment; female sexuality is robbed and used to sell products for which men largely see the gains; we are treated as reproductive chattel; when we are raped, it’s the perceived sexuality of females that is blamed, rather than male entitlement to our bodies.

None of these issues are addressed when we use the term gender equality to talk about what feminism means for us. Gender equality quite literally means respecting socially imposed constructs in place of human rights, in place of our rights and experiences, and erases our ability to center women in our own movement. Feminism is, first and foremost, a movement for females. Once we remove women from the definition of feminism, it is effectively rendered toothless.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, writing for the Guardian, sums it up beautifully. “Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest,” Adichie continues. “Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general — but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.”

Gender Equality is Male-Centered Equality

Let’s go back to Emma Watson and her declaration that feminism is about freedom, liberation, and equality. Her ideas are by no means hers alone; they represent a mainstream misunderstanding of what it is women need to achieve the freedom of choice she advocates.

To begin with, the mainstream left places these ideas together as though they are synonymous — as though equality will manifest as liberation. Then, we need to ask: what is meant by equality?

In order to understand what equality means in this context, we need to understand how it is being defined in society. Equal pay for equal work, for example, is a cause being advocated by many women in Hollywood. It is propped up as a feminist issue rather than an economic one. The push for equal pay acknowledges that money is power while strangely ignoring the reality of the system of capitalism, which depends on inequality. Equal pay for equal work does nothing for the women who do a disproportionate amount of housework in heterosexual relationships, no matter how much more they might make than their male partner.

It is also curious how granting women an opportunity to gain equal work is not frequently addressed by proponents of equal pay advocacy, presumably because educating women is not an individualistic endeavor, but requires labor and restructuring of systems. Indeed, wealthy white women advocating equal pay comes across as self-serving, and rightfully so, since they have shown themselves to be unwilling to lift women who lack the skills or resources to gain employment in fields of prestige similar to their own. Or, perhaps, to criticize capitalism itself, and recognize that “equal pay” within an unequal system is an oxymoron.

In this case, it becomes clear that equality is being defined by the left as becoming equal to men : advocating for the same rights and privileges that men enjoy under patriarchy is the standard by which mainstream feminism is measuring women’s freedom. When feminism is defined as becoming equal to men, it is a clear admission that men are the default by which we ought to measure ourselves, and therefore, no longer feminism at all.

Instead of saying, “Women can do anything a man can do,” we ought to recognize that women can do amazing things men can never do. Our biological differences — the ability to create life — is a gift. Men and women are more the same than different, aside from this point, yet it is very telling that the perceived weakness of our bodies, along with our ability to give birth, are among the main obstacles in men perceiving us as, and allowing us to be, fully human.

The reason women are oppressed is because we are different from men. Historically, patriarchy has used difference to justify subordination. We do not need to be seen as equal to men: we need to be seen as worthy and valid not in spite of, but because of our differences. Women should not have to be perceived as the same as men to be deserving.

To quote Germaine Greer, “I have never been an equality feminist… I don’t think the present condition of men is anything I need to aspire to.” We ought to reject the idea that striving to get what men have will result in our liberation, as well as the coercion to include men in our movement. If we do not challenge the system of patriarchy, any gains we make will depend on their whims — our rights will be doled out to us unevenly, and we will be forced to continue asking men to grant them to us.

Say it loudly and proudly: feminism is about women’s liberation from patriarchy.

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These days, many people confuse discussions about society with criticisms of themselves and their lifestyles. They get offended and bring their personal choices into a debate about structures. While structures are made up of many choices, it is important to remove the self from discussions of systemic power as a whole.

The leaders who make legislation have no problem doing this because the ones who are in power recognize class, rather than individuals.
For example, laws could not exist if they were about individuals; laws apply to communities of people, ie, societies. Similarly, culture does not rely on an individual’s behavior. It is considered broadly and spoken of, researched, and analyzed in broad terms.

I would guess one reason for the debates centering on indivi

duals as opposed to culture & systems is:
1) media is controlled by those who have accumulated power;
2) media has direct access to our minds, on a scale we’ve never seen before; 3) men, particularly those with the most power, have the most to profit from erasing and undermining discussions of class — they’d prefer to be treated as individuals exactly because they are the ruling class, and they have all the tools at their disposal to redirect public discourse.

Much has been said recently about the impact of neoliberalism on politics and public discourse, but here is a recent Noam Chomsky interview in case you’ve missed out. The basic premise of the impact neoliberalism has had on social movements for change is a shift from collectivism, which emphasizes group interests, to individualism, which prioritizes personal choices.

This can feel like an academic and alienating concept, but I guarantee that most of us have experienced the effects of neoliberalism in an everyday conversation. Have you ever been in a dialogue and felt ashamed of the personal choices you make in your day-to-day life? Or, have you ever tried to have a conversation about society, only to have it turn into a discussion over what someone does individually?

Individual choice has become the new tyranny of social justice movements. Or, to be more accurate — so no one thinks I’m shaming them for their choices — neoliberalism has effectively cornered human rights movements by promoting the idea that the onus for systemic inequality falls on the choices we all make.

There are many reasons why convincing the public that all the ailments of a society rest on their shoulders, but foremost, it removes responsibility from governments and corporations. Instead of looking up, we begin to look within. We are encouraged to feel shame about ourselves and our choices. But the truth of it is: there isn’t a person alive who can always make the best choices, whether for the planet, or for society. We are all bound by a system which does not allow us to choose ethically; a system which is itself unethical, and projects blame onto the public to maintain itself.

In order to address the root of the problem, we need to question the difference between a choice and a change, and to analyze the messages sent to us by those in power for what they are: prescriptions for behavior. These directives specifically target us in an effort to keep the public from organizing as classes, and, significantly, to keep us complicit within the system writ large—to maintain a harmful way of finding ourselves through a series of fashion and consumerist methods; to keep us seeking outward validation rather than feeling at ease within. It is not enough for individuals to feel personally empowered by choices that they make under an unequal system and it is very telling that this rhetoric is born out of Western economic privilege.

The premise of this ideology suggests that all of us are able to make our own choices, which is demonstrably untrue. Nor do our choices actually empower us; something that may feel good to an individual is not necessarily beneficial to society. It is up to us to decide if we will opt for the comfort and safety of personal choice empowerment rhetoric, or if we will challenge the system of capitalist, white male supremacy to create a more equitable world for those with less power, as well as for future generations. And we are rapidly running out of time.

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“The rapid uptake of gender identity ideology is allowing us now, to watch unmoved, or even congratulatory as a well-known media personality and psychologist promotes state supported, corrective, genital reassignment surgery for an otherwise healthy, young person suffering depression on nationwide television. All we need to know, it seems, is that this teenager suffers depression and does not conform to gender norms, and we will support medical intervention, too.

Lifton comments that there was also remarkably little opposition to sterilization when it was practised in the early stages of the Nazi era.

We need to start asking questions.”

writing by renee

Over the last few years, mainstream acceptance of gender identity ideology has grown rapidly. It seems like every week, another media outlet, student union, Ministry or educational organisation is strengthening its commitment to “trans rights”. This commitment often precludes any possibility of critical discussion, since the ideology is so rigid.

As the climate becomes increasigly hostile to any kind of questioning, hesitation or challenge, injustices that bear the mark of inconvenient truth go by largely undiscussed. Northland teenager Zahra Cooper received little attention for speaking out about the damage that gender transition did to her. Wealthy New Zealander Gavin Hubbard took a Samoan woman’s weightlifting medal, in front of a similarly apathetic media. That same media was happy to trash Laura though, a teenage girl from Marlborough who wanted to be consulted when her Girls’ College changed their bathroom policy.

There is much to be concerned about here. It is…

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Excellent collection of radical feminist resources

TRADFEM

A Massive Compendium of Radical Feminist Resources:


This is a compendium of Radical Feminist Resources in many different media (books, websites, blogs, videos, social media, etc.). I have tried to collect some of the most significant radical feminist resources. Many of the resources listed (e.g. some websites and blogs) link to many other resources: be sure to follow the links.

How do we define Radical Feminism?
One view: https://radicalhubarchives.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/radfem-101-a-radical-feminist-primer-part-one/ (see blog for Parts 2 through 4)

Another view, from http://www.radfemcollective.org/what-is-radical-feminism/ : “Radical Feminist theory analyses the structures of power which oppress the female sex. Its central tenet is that women as a biological class are globally oppressed by men as a biological class.” (See the link for the rest of the definition: it goes on for several paragraphs).

Another view: https://deepgreenresistance.org/en/who-we-are/faqs/radical-feminism-faqs

Massive Hubs of Radical Feminist Resources:
Feminist Reprise: http://feminist-reprise.org/about-fr/ (“Feminist Reprise is a site dedicated to the preservation and…

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With the recent success of the re-make of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, I became curious about the origin of the fairy tale. There has been some debate as to whether the story itself can be adapted into a feminist work; Emma Watson has gone to great lengths to present the 2017 film as championing women’s rights, even calling on the advice and approval of Gloria Steinem. However, in an article for Quartz, Olivia Goldhill criticizes the use of feminism as a marketing strategy, when, in fact, the film does “diddlysquat for gender equality” (though I assume she means sex equality).

Without having seen the movie myself, I’m inclined to agree – based entirely on the premise of the story itself, and the ways in which Disney tends to remove socio-political context from fairy tales to appeal to a mass market. Like the saccharine-sweet Disney tagline, “a tale as old as time”, the concept itself is nothing original. In Greek mythology, for example, Zeus takes the form of an animal to seduce women; in many bestial fables throughout history there is an element of reducing females to the animal kingdom – to a creature other than human.

That the beast she comes to love is male does not mean he is a human man. He later transforms to a human, or returns to his original human form, but the woman remains the same; capable of romance with a beast, she herself is reduced to something other, and never transcends her status as an animal. It is for her to love indiscriminately, to embrace in herself the part of her which is also not human; which is to say, the love from a woman is equal to the love of an animal. And so it does not seem odd, this inter-species trope. When Zeus becomes an animal, it is because he is a god. When a woman loves an animal, it is because she did not have to change her form: woman is already profane.

Yet in the original publication of the tale, Beauty herself was a magical creature, arguably more powerful than the Beast. She was the daughter of a king and a fairy – the same fairy that placed the curse on the Beast. It seems a minor detail to have been omitted, but one which would have placed the romance into a more sensible, if fantastic, context, while changing the power dynamic of the relationship.
The earliest known publication of The Beauty and the Beast fairy tale dates back to 1740. Written by Madame Gabrielle–Suzanne de Villeneuve, La Belle et la Bête was intended to be read by adults, but was quickly shortened into a children’s version only sixteen years later by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756 for Magasin des enfants (The Children’s Collection).

At the time of publication, women in France had few legal rights. Arranged marriages were common. Women could not control property, and girls were married off around the ages of fourteen or fifteen, often to men decades older. A girl who failed her role as a satisfactory wife risked being imprisoned in a mental asylum. In this context, the Beast represents the fear of young girls for their future marriage prospects: would the man be a monster? Would he abuse her?

Mme Villeneuve’s version can be read as a tale intended to prepare child brides of 18th century France for their role. Though the man appears to be a monster, she can learn to love him and accept her fate. Alternately, the story be seen as subtly critical of arranged marriages and an attempt to address the lack of choice girls faced within the arranged marriage system.

In her novel, the Beast does not become a man until after they wed, and Beauty wakes up in her marriage bed to find a prince – the implication of which seems obvious: she is reassured that the man she has married is not, in fact, a terrifying monster.

We can also interpret Mme Villeneuve’s story as instructive to men who entered into arranged marriages. Since it is Beauty who teaches the Beast manners and kindness, the message to the male reading audience may have been: be kind and patient, and do not use force. The main element supporting the idea that Villeneuve was critical of arranged child marriages is her emphasis on love and respect. In a subversive way, she proposed the idea of being free to marry for love, and for women to have at least a modicum of choice in their own fate.
It is common for criticisms of the modern version of Beauty and the Beast to make a connection between Beauty and the condition of Stockholm Syndrome, though in its original context, this is not entirely accurate. Throughout a majority of the history of patriarchy, women have had little choice in their marriage circumstances. That women and girls without options may have appeared to love their captor pathologizes women for whom keeping up this image was necessary to their survival. It’s also telling that no term immediately springs to mind for the type of psychological condition which prompts men to abduct and attempt to seduce a woman. A woman must have a syndrome to show affection to her captor, but the nature of the man who abducts her carries no instantly recognizable syndrome.

When we ask, “Is Beauty and the Beast feminist?”, we are asking the wrong question. Feminism had not yet won women the right to express themselves freely at the time of its publication. Direct feminist action was punishable by death: decades after La Belle et la Bête, Olympe de Gouges was executed by guillotine for writing Déclaration des droits de la Femme et de la Citoyenne (“Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen“), and for proposing a more equal marriage system.

A better question might be, did the story appropriately draw attention to the conditions of women and girls in arranged marriages? And in what ways is the story currently being used outside of its intended social commentary, to reinforce the notion that appearances are a priority in order for women to be loved, while men are allowed to be measured by their character – to be taken as fully human, in spite of their appearances or personal failings?

The film I imagine for this fairy tale includes the context of child marriage. Beauty would have a name, not just the French word for beauty (Belle). She would have friends; she would see her friends being married off to older men who mistreated them. She would be afraid, unsure of her future. She would see women around her imprisoned in mental institutions for rebelling. And love would become fully her own choice. She would find herself with an option of living her life without marriage. Such a film would say all of the things that Villeneuve was not allowed to say directly at the time. The romance of it would be a background element, not the story itself. The main story, and the one I’m concerned with: the prison that the marriage system was to young girls in France, and continues to be for an untold number of women and girls.

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writing by renee

For Kate. Image by Untameable Shrews (@untamableshrews).

New Zealand leftist news site The Spinoff recently published a “now what?” article for feminists, following the Women’s March. The piece recommends organisations to support, and tells readers that the “New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective advocates for the rights, health and well-being of all sex workers. Remember to include these women in your feminism, otherwise it’s not feminism.”

The author seems unaware that NZPC’s programmes coordinator is a male. In any case, “listen to NZPC” has become a catch-cry among liberals in Wellington, where discussions of feminism arise. Perhaps because of the organisation’s authority and charitable image, it is also standard practice for New Zealand media to defer to NZPC on issues surrounding the sex trade.

But where does “listening to the NZPC” actually lead us?

The organisation has long departed from its origins as a grassroots charity. It started in the…

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by RadFemFatale

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory, introduced the concept of intersectionality in 1989. Intersectionality refers to the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. It is the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities. And before Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality, the term ‘multiple oppressions’ was used to describe the intersection of race and sex in American feminist theory, and the invisibility of women of color in the white feminist movement.

“The concept of the simultaneity of oppression is still the crux of a Black feminist understanding of political reality and, I believe, one of the most significant ideological contributions of Black feminist thought.” — Barbara Smith 1983

In 2011 Flavia Dzodan, writing for Tiger Beatdown, stated, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” This quickly became a rallying cry, a popular slogan which was appropriated and sold on merchandise for which Dzodan received no compensation. The result is the maxim has become oft-repeated by those who have never read Dzodan’s article in its entirety.

Jess Martin, writing for Feminist Current, made the connection between the appropriation of the term intersectionality by millenials as a tool of call-out culture. “Where Crenshaw defines ‘white feminism’ as ‘the creation of a consciousness that was distinct from and in opposition to that of white men’ and ‘the failure to embrace the complexities of compoundedness,’ millennials often use the term to denounce anyone who explores topics or holds political views they don’t like, particularly any critique of queer theory’s definition of gender as a chosen and individual identity, sexualization, objectification, and/or the sex industry.”

I can think of no more obvious example of this appropriation than the article, “Ban Sex Work? Fuck Off, White Feminism“, by Paris Lees, wherein Lees denounces his own white privilege and grossly misuses Black feminist theory to essentially tell women we ought to shut up about the violence of female exploitation and objectification inherent to the sex industry. “I am both white and a feminist. But I am not what you would call a White Feminist, capital letters, for I am also trans,” writes Lees, casually shrugging off the white male privilege he grew up with. “White Feminism is many things but it is not inclusive, or, in fancy feminist lingo, ‘intersectional’.” Lees goes on to say the voices of sex workers have been drowned out, ironically drowning out the voices of exited women who oppose the sex industry and support the Nordic model of decriminalization, all the while presenting a deep misunderstanding of facts and research done on the legislation, and neglect for the disproportionate numbers of women of color who are most exploited by the industry.

It is important to remember the context of the theory of intersectionality: what it is and what it isn’t. For one thing, it is not about telling women to shut up. Intersectionality, like oppression, is complex and cannot be flattened to terms like ‘inclusion’ or ‘exclusion’, as is being commonly done by mainstream liberal feminism, particularly in the US and Canada. It means understanding differences and addressing them. It is not enough to say, “My feminism is inclusive,” because that in itself means nothing. Feminism is not something which is subjective to each person, but addresses systems of power which cause inequality to be expressed in a variety of ways.

“When feminism does not explicitly oppose racism, and when anti-racism does not incorporate opposition to patriarchy, race and gender politics often end up being antagonistic to each other and both interests lose.”
— Kimberlé Crenshaw

After the Women’s March on Washington, there was another ripple of intersectionality appropriation as the queer community took to Twitter to denounce women who referenced their biology as exclusionary. It is unconscionable that women should be told our own anatomy is offensive to those who do not possess it – particularly as our reproductive rights are being rolled back around the world. Women have a right to talk about our bodies because they are the locus of the oppression and violence we suffer. ‘Exclusionary’ as a term is currently playing out as censorship and helps only those who profit from patriarchy. Turning terms from Black feminist writers into safety pins to signal oneself as morally superior to other women is not only an insult to Crenshaw’s work, but detrimental to all women’s struggle against institutions of oppression.


True inclusion necessitates a respect for differences, since the challenges we experience under patriarchy, though related, are not the same. We need to listen to and respect these differences in order to create meaningful legislation that benefits everyone. We cannot address individual needs while ignoring systems of power. Any individual freedoms attained that neglect societal structures will come at the cost of another’s freedom; therefore, we need to tackle the systems which create these limitations rather than fighting each other for our own share.

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by Maureen K. Doll

radical, adj.: late 14c., in a medieval philosophical sense, from Late Latin radicalis “of or having roots,” from Latin radix (genitive radicis) “root” (see radish). Meaning “going to the origin, essential” is from 1650s.  

I first loved the word “radical” for pure potency.  I learned from James Dobson as a girl that radical feminists are the scary ones: threatening to God, family, and social order. These three syllables infused conservative rants about disobedient women and had the force to make stolid men like James Dobson sputter.  And so I wore them like a crown, following the long years of my de-conditioning.  

I was aware of the etymology too, as a lovely background harmony: root.  This was a comforting word, holding an earthy vibration amid a capitalist hallucination of disposable items and bodies.  The root is what I understood bell hooks to have identified as “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy: a litany that put into focus the ambient chaos around me.

Some years later, nearly all the feminists I know are radical and the word has ceased to render quite the same delicious thrill.  Rather, I find myself reflecting more on this: “going to the origin, essential.” Specifically, once we have identified the root issue, what is the essential response?  

As radical feminists are a small band amid a storm of erratic liberalism, many of us can only meet online.  There is enormous power generated in these groups, where women speak without censure.  Yet this has effectively moved radical and liberal women into increasingly sequestered camps, while our own disagreements too often dissolve into bitterness.  What solid root do we cling to, amidst increasingly polarized and maddening political realities?  What, with all our cultural and personal divides, do we hold in common?  And here I return to my now-favored three syllables: sisterhood.

This is not a syndicated commercial, encouraging women to wear pink ribbons and buy the preferred brand of tampons.  This is not a magazine excerpt with excess exclamation points and images of preternaturally clean-looking female bodies.  This is not a sermon: indeed, I am not qualified to issue one. This is simply a reminder, that my own heart has been clamoring for, of the radical task before us.  

Sisterhood is not found in discussing agreed upon topics with agreed upon people.  Sisterhood is not formed by suppressing disagreement, nor by exaggerating it.  Sisterhood is also not birthed by throwing words and energy at women who are closed to them.  Sisterhood is simply the radical realization that all our destinies are entwined.

sisterhood, n. “state of being a sister,” late 14c., from sister + -hood. Meaning “a society of sisters” (usually a religious order) is from 1590s; sense of “women having some common characteristic or calling” is from c. 1600.  

This is our common calling: one another. As radical feminists, I believe we all hear the call of other women.  It echoes through the centuries, it shouts in our dreams, it wakes us in the night with an inarticulable longing.  How to make this bond manifest? Do we devote as much time to lifting up the most vulnerable women on this planet, as to winning online skirmishes?  Do we give women—the most irritating, unrelatable women—the benefit of the doubt?  Do we realize it is more important to empathize with another woman’s inability to cope, than critique it?  When we see the most handmaiden of handmaideny writing, do we think, “There but for the grace of Goddess, go I?” Can we “block” the women who truly do distract us from our path, with compassion and a blessing?  And when we white women hear the words “white feminism” do we listen—truly listen—to what the speaker is saying, until her tears are our own?  

I know these things happen because I see them.  And when I see them I feel clearer and stronger.  But I also know how easy it is to become distracted by the torrent of snark, memes, and inanities forever on the periphery. I know how swiftly the ground starts slipping under my feet as I chase another point I think needs correcting. I also see through example what bears solid fruit, or is more likely to flood the roots.  Recently, I was equal parts despondent over a billion critiques of an imperfect Women’s March as I was heartened by images of my dear sisters marching with their luminous signs, carrying the radical vision where it was most needed.        

The last question posed above brings me to an uncomfortable truth: not all women identifying as “radical feminist” have fully grasped the root affliction. It is true that the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy grew in inverse: first patriarchy, then capitalism, then imperialism and white supremacy.  But it is also true these terrors are now fused into a single, brutal, indivisible force.  There is no movement against patriarchy that is not fiercely fighting capitalism, white supremacy, imperialism, and the wholesale destruction of the planet.  If this vision has not been fully and clearly articulated, it is only because white western women have still failed to right the omissions of our foremothers.

As the material reality on this planet continues to degrade, fear is omnipresent.  It is easy to be angered by those still clinging to illusion, and tempting for those of us with the privilege of constant internet access to hide there. Patriarchy is striking with fatal precision at the root: the ability of the planet to host human life, the gains of prior generations of feminists, and the rights of the remaining first nations.  And so, we too must return to our roots.

These roots, of our entwined destiny, pulsing with the unfathomable creativity of women, have been my salvation in this life. They grow deeper and stronger with intense listening, devotion to the most vulnerable, sacrifice for the planet, bearing with the misguided, and ruthless protectiveness toward all women. This is sisterhood.  And this word we will one day wear as a crown, atop the long years of our tireless fight.  

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