Monthly Archives: September 2014

Be-ing a Bitch with a Capital W: Radical Feminism is Witchcraft

This makes me want to get back to my witchiness. Witchcraft is not silly at all. No, reading this makes me remember (re-member?) a certain power in me, often forgotten.

edit: Originally I linked an artile that is now gone, but it looks like the author–When Women Were Warriors–has changed things a bit. I think this is the one.


Riddle Scale adapted to separatism

Today I decided to combine two of my favorite concepts: Women’s separatism and the Riddle Scale of Homophobia.  The Riddle scale offers a range of positive and negative attitudes along a spectrum, acknowledging that homophobia is not an ON/OFF switch, an either/or.  And, it contributes the complicating assertion that “tolerance,” quite the buzzword in workplaces and schools, is still a very negative approach, all things considered.

An important consideration: When I use the term “women’s separatism,” I’m not merely referring to Lesbian separatist land communities.  I’m using Marilyn Frye’s definition from “Some Reflections on Separatism and Power.”  She writes, “Feminist separation is, of course, separation of various sorts or modes from men and from institutions, relationships, roles and activities which are male-defined, male-dominated and operating for the benefit of males and the maintenance of male privilege–this separation being initiated or maintained, at will, by women.”  Since these male institutions, roles, and activities that we might separate from include rape, abuse, beauty standards, workplace harassment, compulsory heterosexuality, forced childbearing, male-dominated religion, and so on, separation is pretty clearly a basic feminist tool, yet it is extraordinarily vilified.  But so is any kind of feminism that actually opposes patriarchy, and I think replacing “separatism” with “feminism” in the scale below still makes sense.  I have found it extremely interesting to put reactions to feminism/separatism along the Riddle Scale, if only as a frame for categorizing them.


Negative Attitudes

REPULSION–Oppose any form of separatism as unnatural and will do anything to prevent it, even violently. Includes rape of lesbians, forced marriage, killing women who leave abusive situations, kidnapping girls from school, setting fire to separatist land, and encouraging acts of violence of harassment in others. “Die in a fire” and other internet harassment fall here.

PITY–Separatists should be corrected if possible, and those who cannot be corrected are to be pitied, because separatism will inevitably die out due to its inferiority. Includes characterizing separatists as “doddering old maids,” “Second-Wave dinosaurs,” and “crazy extremists.” The public face of the Michfest boycott falls here.

TOLERANCE–Separatism is immature, and separatists should be treated as children who are expected to “grow out of” this phase. Includes characterizing separatists as women who have been hurt by men and have not been able to “move on with their lives” or women who have a “victim complex” and won’t “take responsibility for their own actions.”  Also can characterize separatists as ignorant of the current scholarship who, with gentle education, may see the error of their ways.  “Equalism,” “post-feminism,” and “I don’t need feminism because…” can fall here.

ACCEPTANCE–Do not agree with separatism as a strategy, privileging a “gender-blind” approach to feminist change, yet take a “live and let live” approach to separatists.

Positive Attitudes

SUPPORT–Accept the logic of separatist approaches but may still be personally uncomfortable with separatism; however, may be able to offer the beginnings of support. Also may see the logic of separatism but cannot yet integrate it with other, conflicting beliefs.  “I’m not a feminist, but…”

ADMIRATION–Acknowledges that openly opposing patriarchy takes a great deal of courage and strength, especially in light of possible opposition. People at the level understand the necessity of separatism on an emotional level.

APPRECIATION–See the value of what separatists have given us–domestic violence shelters, naming sexual harassment, women’s cultural communities, feminist spirituality–and recognize separatism as an important part of the feminist movement.

NURTURANCE–Assumes that women’s separatism–women’s ability to set boundaries and reject oppressive patriarchal institutions etc.–is essential to creating a just world. Setting boundaries is seen as a healthy and pleasant expression of personal integrity. People at this stage are genuinely delighted by all acts along the spectrum of women’s separatism and are excited to act as allies/advocates/practitioners of women’s separatism.


Frye writes, “When we are in control of access to ourselves there will be some no-saying, and when we are more accustomed to it […] we will not strike ourselves or others as being particularly negative.  In this aspect of ourselves and our lives, we will strike ourselves pleasingly, as active beings with momentum of our own, with sufficient shape and structure, with sufficient integrity, to generate friction.”  When we understand separatism correctly–as the rejection of oppression–we see separatism for the healthy, soul-nurturing thing that it is.  When we exercise feminist separation, we are not sick, not crazy, not stupid, not irrelevant or uninteresting–we are IN OUR POWER, exactly where all women should be.

I welcome constructive criticism from radical feminists.

WTF is “Sex” Anyway?

(WARNING: The following post contains a plethora of quotation marks.)*

I was reading a friend’s social media page recently and saw that so-and-so was “an amazingly sexual creature.”

Lifestyle magazines tell readers to “embrace your sexuality.”

Critics of political lesbianism*, from the they’re-really-just-celibate-straights corner, are concerned that poli-lez perpetuates the idea that “lesbians don’t have sex.”

What I am wondering is what people even mean when they use words like “sex” and “sexual” and “sexuality.” When I do a definition search, I get a somewhat circular scramble leading from/to intercourse, reproduction, gametes, eroticism, libido, desire. To complicate it all for radical feminists, what most people mean by “sex” is PIV, which makes sense if derived from “sexual intercourse”/”sexual reproduction”, but then “lesbians have sex too!” and “you don’t need a penis to have sex!” What is it to “have sex”? I mean, apparently you can “have sex” with yourself or with inanimate objects. If the only thing that brings me to orgasm is watching grey squirrels leap from limb to limb through fall foliage, could I be said to be “having sex” while watching said leaping? If the only thing that turns a man on is watching/visualizing a woman being murdered, could he be said to be “having sex” while watching such a tragic scene? Why does a “healthy relationship” require “having sex” regularly?

What is the commonality? Is genital arousal (measured by increased blood flow) the marker of a “sexual experience”? Well that gets complicated when undesirable stimuli turn us on, and our mental “sexual arousal” does not match our genital arousal. Is it then personally defined in the mind? When my lover rubs my back while feeding me starfruit and quoting Emily Dickinson, and I find it the most desirable and bonding experience in the world, is this sexual desire? Where is the “sexual” in it? Must a “sexual” experience necessarily involve genital contact? If yes, then where does “sexual attraction” (or other non-contact experiences) fit in? Did “sex” “not really happen” if someone didn’t orgasm?

OK. I’m being a bit foggy here. What I’m trying to get at is the essence of “sexuality” or “sex.” My mind has been turning, and it comes up with theories. Perhaps in times past, “sex” WAS shorthand for “sexual intercourse” (PIV). Male-female couples therefore had “sex.” Because PIV is a marker of ownership/romance/success/love/marriage/religiosity/whatever, that is, because PIV is THE IMPORTANT EVENT in whatever cultural element you’re talking about, and because PIV=”sex”, then people who don’t PIV, wanting to claim morality/success/love/whatever also, decide that certain non-PIV acts are also “sex.” Now “we are just as good/healthy/successful/loving/whatever as those PIVers.” Then “sex” starts to function as a floating signifier, meaning godknowswhat but everyone pretends we’re all talking about the same thing.

So when PIV-centric people say lesbians don’t have “sex,” they are 100% correct because lesbians are not PIVing. So why should lesbians get offended and try to convince the PIV-centrics that “oh no, lesbians really do have ‘sex'”? What is the essence of what they/we are trying to claim in claiming “sex”? What are we losing if we don’t?

Why is it so *crucial* that a lesbian be “actually” “sexually” attracted to women, as opposed to “merely” feeling “special friendship”? What is so shitty and inferior about having an overwhelming fondness and respect? What is so superior about having a genital response/enjoyment of nudity/PIV-reenactment/possessive tendencies/whatever people are defining as “sexual”?

Or what about the cultural agreement that “men have big sex drives and men are also great” whereas “women have no sex drives and women also suck”? And then women are like “Wait no women are great too! We have sex drives! We’ll prove it by fucking everyone! See! Sexual beings! Therefore women are great!”

If anyone has ideas, please tell me. This all comes in context of the political lesbian** debate, and (1) I honestly do not know what the fuck women (pro- and anti-) mean when they say “sexually attracted to women.” And (2) I am questioning whether the whole idea of “sex” and “sexuality” is not really derived from heterosexuality/PIV.

*(This is totally a ramble. I am not pretending to be coherent here. Maybe I will try to develop this more later, and maybe I will not.)

**(I get that there is a big difference between growing up afraid that people will find out you are an immoral freak and then beat you up, and growing up without that fear.)

Edit: Oh thank goodness.  Sonia Johnson has already thought about this stuff.  I will just have to finish reading The Ship That Sailed Into the Living Room.