Woman-hating by any other name…

There’s this fun thing we’ve been talking about for months and years and decades now, and despite continued conversations and critiques of this behaviour, it rages on… We call it trashing or tearing down or sometimes we call it a witch hunt. And it seems particularly popular in feminist circles. It’s not only a successful way to silence women, but the behaviour is sure to go unchallenged by the masses. (Misogyny never goes out of style!)

If you’ve been the focus of said trashing, you’re likely familiar with the ways in which others readily and willfully misrepresent your words, thoughts, arguments, and life in order to silence you and beat you (virtually, verbally, metaphorically) into submission. An odd preoccupation for the “feminist” movement, to be sure.

Feminist blogger, Glosswitch wrote a post about some of these issues recently, after a tweet of hers was twisted around into an excuse to intimidate and bully her, because, SURPRISE! It’s the internet and it’s de rigeur to hate women on the internet. (The internet isn’t very original).

I do hope you’ll read the post in its entirety (no skimming) because, while I will quote her liberally here, I’m not sure I will quite do her arguments justice.

Glosswitch gets at a lot of key issues at play regarding the toxicity that exists in online feminism, but what it comes down to, it seems, is woman-hating:

“Right now I’m done with the female social code that commands me to express shame at myself, assume good faith in cruel people and deny my own qualities just so that my presence isn’t too disruptive.”

Beyoncé brought the words of Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to the masses in her track, ***Flawless, and I think those words are apt:  “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls ‘You can have ambition, but not too much’.”

Indeed, women are supposed to take up as little space as possible — girls learn not to speak up in the classroom, we learn to literally shrink ourselves, physically, by dieting and fetishizing thinness, we are forced to take up as little space as possible on public transit and, more generally, in public spaces (we are even warned to stay out of public places, lest we be assaulted). We’re not supposed to speak up, stand out, say what we really think, or be proud of our accomplishments or success — in fact, we aren’t supposed to be successful and, if we are, we should feel as though we don’t deserve it and know we will be punished for it either way. To be lady-like is to speak without certainty or to not speak at all. So I can’t help but wonder why it’s become acceptable, among certain feminist circles, to tell one another to shut the fuck up or to focus our efforts on silencing other women.

Glosswitch points to a trend in certain feminist circles that’s bothered me for some time. It seems as though we are expected to divulge every single horrific trauma we’ve experienced, every personal moment of oppression or abuse, every single problem/illness/addiction/struggle we might have faced or currently be facing, publicly and via bullhorn, before we are acknowledged as credible or worthy of a voice. Without this outpouring of every-single-horror it is assumed we’ve experienced nothing but diamonds and champagne. Do I need to tattoo “working-class” on my forehead in order to avoid being called “rich” or “classist?” Because I don’t want to. Women shouldn’t have to tell the entire world every gory detail of their stories in order to have a voice. Many women are not in a position to do this, even if they wanted to. (Consider that many abused women, for example, fear for their lives and, as a result, could never speak publicly about their experiences.) Glosswitch points out that, when we don’t engage in this practice, we are seen as deserving of abuse and assumed to have had the privilege of avoiding experiences that few women been lucky enough to avoid. Do we truly believe every woman should divulge her struggles with addiction, poverty, mental illness, or assault in order to be able to speak? Or her history as an abused or prostituted woman? Placing this demand on women by devaluing their voices and experiences should they choose not to divulge, is unacceptable.

Glosswitch notes:

“I think, again, this is related to misogyny and visibility and to the idea of women such as me, who don’t succumb to the pressure to create a tragic narrative out of their own twitter bio, as shameless interlopers who deserve a kicking.”

She notices, as I have, the way certain feminists have used this routine as a way to privilege their voices and position themselves as “better” or more deserving of a platform than other feminists:

“I think a skim through the twitter bios of a number of white feminists who consider themselves ‘more aware’ than so-called media feminists makes the continuation of this misogynist impulse glaringly obvious. I don’t list my depression, my mental health history, my sexual history, my precise attitude towards gender, my family background in my bio. But I could. I know the lingo I’d use. It would make me more than ‘just’ a woman, but that’s why I don’t do it. Being a woman who defines herself by her actions and words should be enough.”

In reality, this is silencing. And it’s also misogynist. To silence and shame and vilify other women in order to move your career forward or to build a platform is not a particularly feminist behaviour. Neither is telling a woman she has no right to speak. Neither is bullying and harassing women who do dare to speak. Throwing women under the bus in order to shield yourself from misogyny or to get cookies is cowardly. And believe me, treating other feminists as though they should be perfect people (said “perfect” behaviour is decided by a few, mind you) will only make you fearful, as you will become too scared to say anything of consequence, lest someone treat you in the same way you have behaved towards others. Women don’t need to feel more ashamed or more afraid to speak up than they already do. They don’t need to be told to shut the fuck up. That internalized monologue already exists within us and we fight it every day.

Glosswitch points out that this particular form of woman-hating is often represented as educational, as an exercise in “privilege-checking”:

“We don’t allow [feminists] mistakes. We are grossly, rampantly misogynist about them but this form of misogyny is supposed to be corrective, humiliating the privilege out of them.”

She points out that there is a long tradition of punishing women who get out of line and who refuse to go along with the status quo and notes that this punishment is reserved for women, not men:

“It’s feminists who have the nerve to put honesty before radical posturing who are unsettling. Those who genuinely claim space, which is then written off as “privilege” (because what is a woman doing there?). Such women might actually make a difference. So into the bridle they go.”

The “bridle” she refers to is a contraption used centuries ago to punish women deemed “rude,” “riotous,” or “troublesome” — attributes that are commonly and historically ascribed to feminists.

There’s an air of superiority from those who busily seek to ruin and silence other feminists: “We’re doing it right; she’s doing it wrong.” By pointing our fingers elsewhere we keep ourselves safe from attack. It seems pretty clear, though, which white feminists are using valuable ideas like intersectionality to advance their own careers and gain popularity, without an ounce of interest in movements towards ending oppression and with little understanding of structural inequality.

“As a white feminist, I would say it is easier – much, much easier – to play along with this. You get to enjoy the privilege of being white and appear superior to the “mere” white feminists who just don’t “get it”. There’s an absurdly careerist edge to this. If you view feminism not as a movement for social change, but as the route to a media career you’ve got to admit it’s a competitive arena. Using other people to play at being the best white intersectional feminist has been seen by some as a gap in the market. Donning the metaphorical tin hat to shout down “bad” peers is a USP. When you boil it down, such “feminists” are arch capitalists, seeking to commodify not just feminism but the exclusion and lived experience of others.  It is emotionally manipulative and disgracefully self-serving, but it doesn’t involve laying yourself on the line. You get to be a privileged white woman without looking like one.”

Rather than working against privilege, though, this tearing down and this vilification of other-feminists-not-you! reinforces it, Glosswitch argues:

“It is easy but morally untenable, insofar as it uses ideas of intersecting oppressions, not to offer context and understanding, but to reinforce privilege by the back door and to silence dissent. I think of it as a form of privilege laundering. I think it is an example of white people exploiting the narratives of women of colour and it sucks.”

Attacking women in order to get cookies is a pretty low form of feminism. There are few who will challenge the sport of misogyny. I see feminists throwing women under the bus in order to ally with more powerful liberal white men all too often, under the guise of “intersectionality” and I wonder if they see how deeply misguided they are in their imagined work towards liberation. (Allying with men who work to silence and slander women? You’re doing it wrong.) But maybe it’s not about female liberation after all… maybe it’s just about the cookies…

“But now I am on the other side of that imaginary, exploitative privilege line, I see other benefits to approaching feminism not as liberation, but as a self-interested cookie hunt. I didn’t appreciate at the time how much I shielded myself from misogyny by putting the ‘bad’ white feminists out in front.”

It’s just too easy. We all know, full well, that we will receive endless support if we hate on feminists. “Virulent hatred of feminists? We got you.” – The internet. It doesn’t make you brave, it makes you boring.

Let me be clear (not that I think my words won’t be ignored and manipulated as they so often are, despite how clear I am) and say that I am not discouraging critique and difficult conversations. But shaming, silencing, manipulation, defamation and vilification, combined with faux-progressive white-lady (of course the white bros love to do this too, don’t forget) posturing, does not encourage either critique or conversation.

I can’t imagine this summary quite articulates the arguments Glosswitch puts forth, but her righteous anger towards many of the “Twitter feminists” who pat themselves on the backs for being “better” than whomever is Twitter’s current punching bag, felt justified. “How dare you have a platform!” it says, “How dare you speak with confidence.” “How dare you speak about your life and your experiences.” “You clearly haven’t learned how to properly perform femininity and you will be punished.”

“None of you have the right to tell me what my own words mean, to tell me what my thoughts are, to reconstruct my words and reality without my consent. None of you have the right to damage my mental health, make me doubt my capacity to think, to make me feel unable to trust anyone because of the whispering and distortion that follows. None of you have the right to do this just because I’m a feminist and, if flawed, nonetheless a bloody good one too. None of you has the right to expect perfection from me. None of you have the right to place the scold’s bridle on me, to shame and silence me because I don’t fit in with your hackneyed, conservative misreading of revolution.”

In our desperation, we’re looking to escape misogyny by participating in it. We all know that trashing feminists will get you far, but know how transparent and destructive this behaviour is. Know that attacking other women is really about your privilege as it works to protect you from the wrath of a culture that abhors and punishes women who step out of line.

Glosswitch coined the term “misogofeminists” to describe “women (and allies) whose primary form of feminist activism is trashing other women.” And along those lines I’d like to point out what should be obvious, but seems not to be these days: if your “activism” consists primarily of witch hunts and concerted, vicious efforts to silence women, you are doing misogyny, not feminism.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Meghan, what’s going on here? I’m hanging in, but I’m looking for the cue of “real work,” but maybe I’m missing the subtlety of what that looks like in our activist world. Also, the term “misogofeminist” seems to be a failing syllogistic fallacy, as it might “consists primarily of witch hunts and concerted, vicious efforts to silence women.”

    You know, the “misogofeminist” women and their allies.

    Is there any room in the feminist discourse for more skillful means, or must we cut each other’s throats? Is there room for kindness and gentle re-educations of comrades who are “off”?

    Or maybe these words we write on online aren’t so serious. But it seemed like Glosswitch was bearing “the darkness of her soul.”

    Personally, I’ve been turned inside out by rad fems. I’m thankful, but I also showed up and asked for it. But what good is changing the people who want to change?

    Anyway, thank you as usual.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m not sure what you’re asking or referring to re: “real work” and this piece — can you clarify?

      • “misogofeminist” seems to be a failing syllogistic fallacy, as it might “consist primarily of witch hunts and concerted, vicious efforts to silence women.”

        You know, the “misogofeminist” women and their allies.

        Is it real work to coin terms that alienate feminists and contradict themselves?

        Do you ever worry that more people are pushed away than inspired?

        • morag

          I can see your concern Kogen, but I think it’s important to call out misogyny in feminism even if it may cause hurt feelings. I think your worry is misplaced-in my experience it’s not the radical feminists who cut other women down but the liberal feminist/social justice types. The more radical a feminist is, the more dangerous she is to the status quo and misogynist women who benefit from that are not afraid to defend their advantageous position with violence.

        • lizor

          It’s “real work”, especially in an enterprise that looks to dismantle hierarchies, to call out people when they purport to join in resisting the reproduction of those power relations but in actual fact support and reproduce them.

          It is very real and very important work to point out self-identified members of your group – in this case the broadly-defined group who call themselves “feminists” – who are actually working to undermine the goals of the movement.

        • marv

          Kogen, have you thought that you might be further alienating sexualized and prostituted women by promoting loving kindness towards their adversaries (your politics of knowledge). That is misogyny too. Making peace with oppressors will not resolve oppression. You lack gender, race and class critical enlightenment. Authentic feminism takes a preferential option for women in the shadow of gloom, anguish and death, not for facile reconciliation with foes. Feminist structural abolitionism is foolishness to the politically blind (misogofeminists). In truth it is subjugated knowledge unleashed to become the power of liberation – “real work”.

          “Do you ever worry that more [mindful] people are pushed away than inspired” by you. When you invest your whole life into a belief system is it threatening to surrendour it? Awaken! and detach anyway from your state of illusion.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I still don’t understand what you are getting at… Sorry… What’s the ‘real work’ comment have to do with Glosswitch’s term? And, no, I don’t think people will be pushed away from feminism because what they REALLY REALLY wanted to do with their feminism was to attack and silence women and they become aware that that’s not great for feminism…

  • morag

    This reminds me of the whole Laci Green debacle and the feminist blogosphere’s response. Some justifications for her abuse were that she wasn’t a “real” Woc despite growing up in a Muslim household, she was too pretty, transphobic, and not doing sex positivity right. She didn’t deserve sympathy because she didn’t tick the right boxes. Oh and the animals posting death threats and pictures of her apartment were transwomen, which makes it ok because reasons.

    I love that quote from McKinnon. This whole myth of white women snapping their fingers on a whim and falsely imprisoning black men for rape is misogyny disguised as racial analysis. It’s victim blaming and once again creating a class of unrapeable women. How is that feminist?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yeah marginalization as an excuse for threats and abuse is not ok.

  • MM

    When the majority of your efforts of feminism amount to telling other people: “You’re doing feminism wrong”, then you’re probably doing feminism wrong.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ok. So feminism is whatever anyone says it is, then? Even if the behaviour is misogynist? That doesn’t really make much sense to me.

      • MM

        That’s not what I wrote, and it wasn’t directed at you either. I arrived here after seeing Suey Park being a jerk to you. I’m just saying that it’s not really feminism if all one does is tear down other feminists for not having the same take on an issue.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Oh I see. Apologies for misunderstanding.

          Suey Park’s mo seems mostly focused on building a personal brand more than it does feminism.

          • MM

            Well not just that, she’s just an example of power corrupting. Having X number of followers, a successful famous hashtag that made her the face of a movement has gotten to her head, that you can treat anyone the way you want so long as you believe you are right.

            She always had some stupid ideas (ie. “Only white people can be racist”) but the vitriol and bully tactics have only gotten worse and worse. Maybe a narcissistic personality disorder. Maybe just because she’s 23.

            And maybe she’s actually just actually, herself, a racist.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Totally. She certainly exhibits narcissistic characteristics — the obsessive talking about herself in the third person, the general obsession with herself, etc. I mean, who knows how I would behave if I was very young, very new to feminism, and suddenly getting attention — I am glad to not have been in the public eye (of Twitter anyway) when I was so new to the movement — surely I would have fucked up a lot and not known how to handle the attention.

            That said, it’s not as though it’s only her who is engaging in this kind of behaviour. We see others in ‘twitter feminism’ who seem more focused on themselves than anything related to movement-building or ending oppression. They seem obsessed with the notion that their work is constantly being ignored despite the fact that it is very clearly *not* ignored at all, they twist every little beef or disagreement they have into bigotry and then try (viciously) to end the careers and destroy the reputations of those they have disagreements or beefs with. It’s very weird.

            I’m not suggesting we all be nice to one another — I’m certainly not always “nice” — but I don’t see why it’s so hard to at least debate or critique honestly and without the goal of destroying a person (usually through manipulative or dishonest means).

            It really makes movements about individuals, which is think is a pretty big problem….

          • MM

            This photo of Suey would be fantastic if she actually believed in what it says:


          • Meghan Murphy

            Oh MAN!!! Hypocrisy at its finest.

  • Missfit

    In my opinion ‘feminist circles’ one wants to avoid are those where the following words are being used : ‘cis-privilege’ and ‘kink-shaming’. Claims of privileges and marginalizations like these are actually being used to limit and/or derail feminist analysis. Even though we all appropriate the label ‘feminist’, I can’t make common cause with gender essentialists and porn apologists.

    • jo

      “Kink-shaming” is the most stupid term ever. Someone doesn’t like your fetish? Cry me a river! Someone actually has legimate criticism of your sexist/racist/abusive fetish? Oh no they’re ~shaming~ you!

      I’ve actually had this conversation:
      Me: This is making me uncomfortable, it shows rape and violence against women in a postive light.
      Them: I’m triggered by you kinkshaming me!!!!

      So rape-fetishists are allowed to be “triggered” but not female victims of male violence.

      • TotallyUnsexy

        I know an even worse term, “non-vanilla shaming”. First off the term itself is insulting to people who aren’t into BDSM (“vanilla” implies boring, conventional, dull.) Second of all the term is a triple negative. The term “vanilla sex” is most often used by the BDSM to describe non-BDSM sex. So the term “non-vanilla shaming” basically means “expressing anti-non-non-BDSM ideas”. It would have been more honest to call it “expressing anti-BDSM ideas”, but of course fun feminists are rarely honest and wouldn’t dare admit that there are certain ideological viewpoints that cannot be expressed at their conferences.

        So instead they try to flip things around and claim that there are “vanilla” people with a particular kind of sexual desire who think negatively of anyone outside of that “vanilla” group. Of course vanilla people aren’t the ones getting together and forming communities devoted to a particular sexual practice and excluding those who aren’t interested in the fetish. It’s the BDSMers who have formed a special group. They’re the ones with a narrow idea of what sex is (i.e. “sex equals power imbalance”) and they’re the ones shoving their sex life in everyone else’s faces. So enough with this “non-vanilla” crap. Radical feminists are critical of BDSMers for what they are, not for what they aren’t.

        The BDSM community thinks it’s perfectly fine for men to strut around in Nazi uniforms and have sessions on “race play” which discuss how sexy it is for white men to dominate black “slaves”. They have a lot of nerve accusing others of offending them. What’s next? Golden Dawn complaining about “political-shaming” whenever somebody point out how evil racism and fascism are?

        Shame is not inherently bad. It has its place, like other negative feelings that liberals want to stamp out (e.g. hatred, guilt, etc.) The important thing is that people be ashamed of the right things. Small breasts, dark skin, pubic hair and other so-called “ugly” features are nothing to be ashamed of, but if you walk around in public wearing a Nazi uniform or ask your female submissive to wear a collar to work or encourage people to shove cloth down women’s throats so as to restrict their breathing, then SHAME ON YOU!

  • julia

    Can you explain what is gender essentialist about the concept of cis-privilege?

    • morag

      Cis privilege is the erroneous belief that women are in an oppressor position because we are “allowed” to wear make up, high heels, etc. Furthermore, gender essentialists argue that women are born liking these things, so men who like dresses must really be women. Radical feminists argue that gender is a social construct that causes female oppression. We are not privileged for being seen as the sex class by men.

    • Laur

      If a transwoman passes as female then she is treated as any other women–pretty terrible. I’d she is treated as a man trying to be woman. Then she may be treated horribly–by men.

    • Missfit

      Cis means that your gender identity aligns with your biological sex. This means that people do have a gender identity, either masculine or feminine, composed of specific, identifiable and pre-determined personality traits, abilities and tastes, that should go along with being female or male. Even though you are a female struggling with socially forced femininity, you are deemed privileged as long as you proclaim to be a woman (which makes you cis, otherwise you are trans). In the trans ideology, gender has superseded biological sex – it is femininity that defines a woman, not sex (what to do with all the gender non-conforming women? do they become men?). I saw, on a self-proclaimed feminist website, a woman apologized after being aggressively called a cis-sexist for having alluded to the fact that women were menstruating. I saw discussions on feminine socialization being silenced on the basis that gender should be accepted as nothing more than an innate ‘born this way’ feeling. If this is not gender essentialism, I don’t know what is.

  • Laur

    Feminism is about liberating women, all women–poor, prostituted, colonized (by nation-states), mothers, educated women, illiterate women, and on and on and on. Each group has some of their own needs, but what *women* as a group need is freedom. Freedom from male violence and coercion in all the various ways it plays out. Arguing endlessly about which woman has the most privilege, and tearing women down who might have actual resources she can offer the movement (!!!), whether they be writing, access to major news sources, exiting prostitution, being a creative person, being a wonderful speaker, etc, etc, etc. We need to celebrate the ways every woman who works for women brings something to the table.

    • morag

      Exactly! Have you noticed tha one of feminism’s goals historically was to allow women to become more educated, but recently if a woman dares to have a degree and use her academic position to further feminism, she’s denounced as classist (meaning uppity)? If a woman tries to make anything of herself she’s accused of crushing other women to get what she wants.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Exactly. Attacking women for writing or speaking publicly, attacking them for having an education, or for attempting to affect change (which is what feminists do) in public spaces seems so backwards to me. ESPECIALLY when we’ve struggled so hard simply to be able to access those spaces. It was no so long ago women weren’t even allowed in graduate programs. My aunt was the first and only woman in her MASTERS program in the states ffs. And she wasn’t admitted to other graduate program at some other American universities because she was a woman. My aunt. Not great aunt. It’s like we finally gain some ground and we’re being pushed back down — by so-called feminists, at that!

      • Laur

        Meaghan and morag, I am so happy you agree with what I said. It’s so ironic how some self-proclaimed “feminists” only focus on the privileges a woman has. And then only the person in the “least privileged” position is allowed to speak. Although of course, they will always be someone “less privileged” than her.

        It would be so much better if we could focus on the positives every woman brings to the table. I am no longer active on the feminist blogosphere (minus this site) and don’t go on twitter. I could not take the verbal abuse from women who don’t even care to treat me like a human being!!! Then of course, there’s the “this is just verbal, not physical/sexual abuse”. As if some kind of abuse is better than others. As if I can just dissociate during abuse that stays online, maybe indeterminately (my dissociation skills ain’t THAT good!).

        I know these women were deeply traumatized, and I hope they can get help so they don’t hurt anyone else they way they hurt me. Women they meet online or for 2 minutes at a conference are not their abuser.

        I could say more but I don’t want to go on too much of a tangent.

  • That shrinking in public thing can be both obvious and subtle. Even under the best intentions, dudes can end up taking space away from ladies. Definitely gotta work on that.

  • ftaylor2014

    “the concept of cis-privilege?”

    The very use of this word is misogynistic, using the words of our adversaries is somehow adopting their views, feminists should not validate this derogatory vocabulary by using it.
    Women are women, period, not ciswomen, this renaming of us by mtfs is another case of males naming and defining women.

    And the notion of cis privilege is just as absurd as the notion of black privilege or lesbian privilege, it’s patriarchal inversion of reality at its best.

    • morag

      This comment sums up exactly what I tried to convey upthread. THIS is what radical feminism should be, not giggling and simpering while calling transwomen “she.”

    • jo

      IMO it’s anti-feminist to state that women are privileged by being women.

      I’ve seen articles aimed at women/feminists were we are supposed to learn about our “cis-privilege” and how transsexuals are the ones most in danger of violence and rape. And women aren’t? Stats please? It really saddens me how women will respond with replies like “ thanks for informing me I need to consider how privileged I am”
      As women we should always be open, place others before ourselves, and not think of ourselves as important, or an oppressed group. I guess it makes it easy to convince women of having cis-privilege.
      Female humans are oppressed because of our sex and with the gender role we are placed in. Men might have cis-privilege however, but you can simply call it male privilege.

    • julia

      I think that this represents a really flawed attempt to paint all woman as “the same.” The strengths of various strains of feminisms come through locating and naming axes of similarity and difference of the experiences of women (including white women, black women, woc, old women, young women, trans women and cis women, to name a few). There is no homogenous category that can experienced under the identity of “woman”. Not only is it misogynist to say so (insofar as you reduce myriad of experiences of women under one archetypal “woman”), it totally erases the work that primarily black women and other woc have done in introducing intersectionality to feminism. As such trying to draw parallels between cis privilege and black privilege is totally absurd (given that lesbian oppression exists contra heterosexist institutions, black oppression exists contra racism, and trans oppression exists contra the privileged existence of people who are not trans).

      Also to imply that transwomen are our “adversaries” is super twisted. I think this demonstrates that our feminisms are absolutely not the same, and as such to rely on any linguistic category of “we/our/us” is a gross misrepresentation of the movements. I’m not even going to touch on your characterization of “males naming and defining women” as I think it’s totally disgusting.

      • morag

        Yeeeeeah, it’s the radical feminists who are the disgusting ones. We’re the ones responsible for the ad industry, global warming, murder, and racism.

        I have to ask: have you drank so much pomo koolaid that you lost touch with what it actually means to be a woman under patriarchy? As women we share one unique sex based oppression that transcends the other privileges individual women have. A man can never get pregnant no matter how many times he clicks his heels and says I wish I were female.

        And can someone please explain why radical feminism is accused of being racist instead of the “prostitution is empowering and we’re taking back the word slut” band of liberal feminists?

        • julia

          Hey Morag, thanks for the thoughtful response! Unfortunately I don’t have time to respond to all of your questions right now but if I can make a couple reading suggestions in the interim I think you might be able to find some answers.

          Choosing The Margin As A Space Of Radical Openness – bell hooks

          This Bridge Called My Back – Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa

          Whipping Girl – Julia Serano

          Let me know if you want some other suggestions, or ones that fit the canon of radical feminism a bit more clearly.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t know that it’s helpful to assume someone disagrees with your perspective because they don’t have all the information/haven’t read these particular books…

            It’s more likely they’ve read the work and they simply don’t agree with your perspective. The commenters who spend time here are generally very well-versed in feminist theory.

          • MissErzulie

            I don’t think Julia was being serious in recommending reading materials. I think she fully realises she doesn’t have any idea how to respond to those questions as her position is fundamentally flawed, and the best way to avoid dealing with them is to dismiss them out of hand.

      • Lucy

        “it totally erases the work that primarily black women and other woc have done in introducing intersectionality to feminism”

        This is what has been bothering me. I am a casual reader of Feminist Current as I agree whole-heartedly with most of the posts, but posts like these… As a woman of color, they make me so uncomfortable. I agree completely with your comment. It’s not that simple that all women, regardless of race, sexuality, age, region, etc., experience the same kind of obstacles concerning sexism. As a woman of color I can say the sexism I experience are on a different level than from my white women peers.The combination of being a POC AND a woman does have an effect. I don’t know, I’m so confuse on this whole direction Feminist Current is taking with this. Feminist Current can be so spot on on so many things and there has been well written blog posts about the sexism that women of color experience. I don’t know, maybe I missing something.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Hey Lucy,

          I wonder if you wouldn’t mind elaborating on your critiques re: this post? I don’t feel that the post devalues intersectionality at all — in fact, I think intersectionality is absolutely necessary in terms of analysis. Of course women’s experiences are shaped, not just by gender, but by race, class, age, region, etc.

          My understanding is that Julia was responding to a comment about the word ‘cis,’ not commenting on the article… Certainly the article doesn’t argue (nor would I ever argue) that being a POC AND a woman is irrelevant.

          Happy to hear your thoughts, nonetheless.

          • lizor

            I also understood Julia to be defending the use of the word “cis” stating that to question the legitimacy of “cis privilege”, “… represents a really flawed attempt to paint all woman as “the same.”

            She conflates the argument that questions the position that to have been born with female reproductive organs places women in a position of privilege over people born with male reproductive organs and who identify as women with a proposition that there is no hierarchy amongst women of differing classes or ethnicities. I don’t think anyone, especially Meghan has proposed the latter.

            And FTR – before anyone jumps in with “exception!!!” – I realize that there are people who have been born with genitals that do not fit clearly into the reproductive binary, and who have subsequently been subject to gender “assignment” by families and the medical establishment, often to the individual’s extreme detriment. I am not talking about those cases.

          • Lucy

            Oh okay! That’s a relief to hear. My apologies. I thought the article was trying to say that privilege checking is bullying. Although, I am not a trans* woman, I have been on the receiving end of the adverse effects whenever someone doesn’t check their privilege on certain discussions, so that’s why I said this post made me uncomfortable. I remember another post on here about intersectionality that striked the same feelings in me as this one, but I am glad I am wrong.

            I admit, I try to keep an open mind whenever I read longer pieces on the computer because I know that sometimes I can easily misread them (I have CVS) but I try my best.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well there are most certainly some valid critiques of the ways in which “privilege-checking” and the term “intersectionality” are used these days (Aphrodite Kocięda wrote one: http://feministcurrent.com/8065/marginalization-is-messy-beyond-intersectionality/ as did Sara Salem: http://feministcurrent.com/8353/marxist-feminism-as-a-critique-of-intersectionality/) but I don’t think that equates to a dismissal of the concept at all.

            I didn’t really get into it in the post, but I’ve read critiques of “privilege-checking” that point out that it’s often used simply as an empty rhetorical device — more performative than meaningful, radical, or transformative, if that makes sense… I found this article on the language of the New Left to be interesting regarding some of these kinds of changes in vocabulary: http://rabble.ca/news/2014/02/check-your-privilege-rise-post-new-left-political-vocabulary

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  • julia

    I’ll try to be careful not to make assumptions in either direction, Meghan 🙂 Morag just expressed concern that I had “lost touch with what it meant to be a woman under patriarchy” and that the pomo kool-aid I’ve been sipping has obfuscated the single shared oppression of all women. I find that periodically returning to these texts and others (like Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism Without Borders) help remind me that many brilliant and active feminists out there claim that there is no singular experience of all women. “Disagreeing” with the lived experience of these women just feels a little paternalistic to me.

    • morag

      *laughs hysterically* I’m sorry, but if you think Julia “feminism doesn’t cater to me and my special lady dick” Serano is feminist….

      And thank you Meghan, it’s true that I (and I’m sure all of the awesome women who comment here) have down a lot of reading and have reached our own conclusions. And what about my and other radical feminists’ lived experiences? Why are ours automatically discounted as if we are the ones who promote internalized misogyny and racism?

      I think it’s pretty telling that you didn’t address any of my points at all either…

    • marv

      “Brilliant and active feminists” are relative terms. What is admired by some people is eschewed by others. Your definitions are congruent with your philosophical stance – liberal leaning feminism. If some self-proclaimed feminists believed that Jesus is Lord, is “disagreeing with the lived experience of these women…paternalistic…”? Obviously, not all perspectives among feminists have equal value. Some are more sound than others:
      http://feministcurrent.com/8394/the-crux-of-the-beyonce-debate-what-is-feminism/ http://feministcurrent.com/2824/big-tent-feminism-sounds-great-feels-a-lot-like-the-status-quo/

      I read Julia Serano’s latest book, Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive, which I assume is the author’s most updated published thinking. There are many remarks I could make about the work but will focus on a few. It is consumed with sexual identity like most liberal feminist ideologues. Typically, gender and sexual identity proponents insist that their selfhood stems from the deepest recesses of their being and is to some extent immutable. They may admit that unfair social conditions (double standards) shape gender and sexual preference but “subconscious inclinations” are also at play. Fluidity within individuals is not unlimited in this viewpoint. We are partly innately determined. Simultaneously it all depends on the individual interacting with inside and outside forces.

      While sexual expression may be attributed to both social and biological influences, it doesn’t deserve the high value we place on its existence. Champions of the sex perspective are obsessed with sexual self mania over a more platonic, collective self-understanding. This discriminatory, “paternalistic” and dogmatic bias is evident in institutions like couple shackling, marriage, polyamory, porn, sex therapy, and BDSM. Putting excessive faith in inner yearnings, desires and inclination to direct our lives reflects liberal or conservative ideological impacts. Subsequently, relationships centering on close friendships united to a commitment to abolish political classes (sex, race, economic….) not just double standards, have been overshadowed by these patriarchal sexual relations constraints. We need to decentre sex, making it non-essential (because it is), not seeing men and women, but simply human animals. Transcending sexuality as the locus of identity sets us on a new path of purpose and meaning. The thoughtless assertion that sex should rule because of intrinsic dispositions and culture gives way to a more equitable and holistic approach to “who I am” allowing for greater variations and diversity of relationships and societies. Right now male and erotic dominance reign supreme.

      • julia

        Hi Marv, thanks for taking the time to respond. I actually think we’re on the same page in our theory though our praxis may divert a bit but overall I do agree with a lot of what you’re saying. First, as a caveat, by no means do I identify as a liberal feminist and I fundamentally disagree with their emphasis on institutions, Cartesian ideals of the body and individualism.

        Second, Serano’s work is definitely not flawless and certainly won’t speak to everyone, but as a phenomenology I think she speaks to the fascistic domination of femininity that underscores misogyny and is a good representative of the many different approaches that exist within the heterogeneous feminist movement. I wouldn’t so much call her focus on sexual identity an “obsession” so much as a foundational part of her ontology (similar to some radical feminist who frequently rely on biological concepts of “woman,” “female,” and “feminine” based on the normative reproductive function of these bodies). While I also agree that some perspectives are “more sound” than others, I don’t think those ones that highlight the intersections of oppressions and the variant experiences of misogyny are those that are lesser.

        Thirdly – and this may be a misreading of your post – but I feel as though you’ve conflated gender identity (and its prescriptive mapping onto the body) with sex acts. I agree that the reformation of fetish/porn/marriage institutions is not going to “save” us but I think that this problem is distinct from unchaining the gendered body from those institutions, which are predicated on producing and constraining women’s bodies and defining acceptable ways of being, materially and philosophically. Transcending sex seems to be a goal that you and I share, but I believe this transcendence will come through dialogue with and learning from our trans* friends, rather deriding them as “males naming and defining women,” calling them misogynist and gender essentialists. I really appreciate the fact that you didn’t do this!! This was, however, what I was initially responding to.


        • Meghan Murphy

          “similar to some radical feminist who frequently rely on biological concepts of ‘woman,’ ‘female,’ and ‘feminine’ based on the normative reproductive function of these bodies”

          I’m a little confused on this point… Most radical feminists see ‘feminine’ as a cultural imposition forced on females — not something natural or innate?

          • julia

            Hey Meghan, my understanding and experience of radical feminism is that there’s two main branches, one which is more cultural which believes in the undervaluation of “feminine values” and the other which focuses almost entirely on the reproductive function of “female bodies.” I tried to make that clear by qualifying it with “some” but will be less ambiguous in the future 🙂 To be sure, I don’t find those two strains radically different as they both rely on some essential characteristic of a homogenous category “woman”

          • Meghan Murphy

            Hi Julia,
            Radical feminism simply means to get at the root — i.e. patriarchy, i.e. the gender hierarchy. Cultural feminism is a thing that exists according to Wikipedia and is sometimes referenced as a branch of feminism in first year Women’s Studies classes (like the survey of ‘feminisms’-type classes) but it isn’t actually something that is relevant or referenced in any notable way in either mainstream feminist discourse or radical feminist discourse. Radical feminists want to destroy gender, though they recognize biological sex as a thing that exists. Radical feminists are very critical (as, really, all feminists should be…) of the idea that there is such a thing a ‘natural’ femininity or masculinity or, for example, a male or female brain: http://feministcurrent.com/8358/podcast-is-there-such-a-thing-as-a-male-brain-or-a-female-brain/

        • marv

          Julia, sex acts occur within a gendered world not in isolation. It doesn’t mean gender and sex acts are the same but that gender forms the political context of sex and its incarnations, e.g., systemic PIV, fellatio, rape, pornstitution, BDSM, marriage. Hypothetically gender and sex are often perceived as separate; in reality they are united.

          Transcending biological sex is not a goal that I share. Overcoming its centrality is my point. Eliminating gender is necessary for this to happen. Trans people can’t help us here because ending gender also implies transcending transitioning.

          As an analogy not a conflation, work is an activity performed in a capitalist world. It doesn’t mean work and capital are the same but that capital and its technology form the political context of work and its forms. In theory we can analyze them as separate categories but in life they are entangled. The way forward is not for some workers to transition to become capitalists or the reverse. Abolition of the class divisions is the solution to the inequalities. At the same time we don’t want to transcend work . That would be farcical. It could very well mean though that productive work does not dominate our lives as a species.

          That is all I have to say. No sense talking in circles.

        • Dana

          “Male” and “female” have to do with reproduction and nothing else. If we reproduced asexually, we’d have no sexes. Think of an amoeba. You will never, ever, in your whole entire life, encounter amoebas that are male and female. They don’t need sexes. They just go through mitosis.

          Anyone who tries to make a big cultural thing out of maleness or femaleness is making a far bigger deal out of them than they deserve. Do you want to have a baby? No? Then sex is not a big deal to you. Having a baby is all that it’s FOR.

          I don’t care if university taught you otherwise. They were wrong.

  • julia

    Hey Meghan, I’m not sure if you can so easily write off self-identified radical feminists who insist that the root of patriarchy lies in the devaluation of essential feminine values as myth. I understand what radical feminists think they’re attacking the root of – I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in dialogue with them before – and I’m going to base my understanding off those experiences and the readings that I’ve done by those radical feminists. Of course – this all speaks to my earlier point about the myriad strains of feminism that exist. As Loretta Ross says, “There are feminisms: we’re not a cult, we’re a movement.”

    • Meghan Murphy

      Just because you choose to base your understanding of radical feminism off of something that isn’t radical feminism, doesn’t make it representative. Here’s what I’m going to assume: you’re a little new to the debate (maybe you’re in your first or second year of college) and you’re young, so you think you’ve got it all down (we’ve been there, don’t worry, we get it). Alas, you do not. We’ve all been having these conversations for a long time and we know what we’re talking about. If I were you I would try to learn — ask questions if you’re not sure. It’s embarrassing to throw yourself into explanations of What Feminism Is to people who have either have been in this movement for more than one wave or have a number of degrees in Women’s Studies and have been studying/reading/writing about feminism, extensively, for years, and have interviewed hundreds of women and feminists feminism/the feminist movement. I’ve read all the same books you have — they were assigned to me too — but we’ve moved beyond that here.

      • To be fair, there are actual radfems who do share a belief in some essential (lost) mystical feminine principle. I find nothing inherently wrong with such talk (and I don’t expect to, as long as it stays within the mystical and doesn’t impose some form of neo-pagan genderism).

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  • I went on Glosswatch to check it out. The entries seem very good, but the comments section are just horrible. It seems she just lets every troll post on there without any sort of control at all. It’s unreadable unless you have a strong stomach.

    I’ve always found that the more censorship there is on blog comments, the better they tend to be (the extreme example, I suppose, being femonade: very high censorship, very high quality comment threads).

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yeah I’ve become far less liberal in my moderation. It just gets annoying and repetitive when you let everything through (and obviously I delete the abusive stuff). It’s tough to find a healthy balance though. And it’s hard to figure out what is productive and what isn’t sometimes. Also, when you ban people or don’t publish their comments they tend to start harassing you, which is always a little scary. Anyway, always trying to figure the best way to do this…