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.

On safe spaces and compliance

This essay by glosswatch pairs well with Marilyn Frye’s essay “Some Reflections on Separatism and Power,” available full-text online. Who has the power to name? Who has the power to say no?


Safe spaces are not just physical entities. They can, and should, exist inside your own mind. The most intimate safe spaces — the physical boundaries of your own body, the theoretical boundaries of your own self-definition — should be the most inviolable ones of all.

Most women know that this is not how things work in practice. They have known it all their lives. Taught to be accessible and passive from birth — not hard, boisterous and demanding — they learn that their safety is partial and contingent on a lack of resistance. Do what the nice man says and no one will get hurt.

Feminism has fought against this, arguing that women deserve the space to be whoever they are, freely, as complete entities rather than as adjuncts to the male ego. There have been political outcomes to this (the creation of women’s refuges and family planning clinics, for…

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Reprogramming: Slow Going

A draft from last year…

I had my clothes on, but it was still pretty reminiscent of missionary intercourse.

I noticed as it morphed from BEST KISSING EVER to the usual–him on top.  I noticed this knowing that I could stop it right then.  I realized that I found it annoying/disappointing/disrespectful/misogynist, but I also noticed that the part of me that had been groomed to this “enjoyed” it, or whatever that sensation actually is, you know what I mean.  So I said nothing and observed.  I observed both of us, because I was participating in it.

I had told myself I wouldn’t have sex with him this week, but in the midst of our interaction, I wasn’t sure any more.  Then I climaxed.  I tend to become my clear-headed feminist self again when I climax, bored of the bullshit.

So I pushed him off and slowed things down.  He seemed to get the message.  I thought.  We slowed down.  But I am learning every day that blunt is best.  Because then suddenly he was aggressive and hard again, but more than he had been with me before.  Did he think I was playing a game with him, that pushing him off was supposed to invite him to do more?  The feminine grooming in me found his behavior “hot,” but the feminist was disturbed.  “He totally wants to dominate and use me right now,” I thought.  “That’s terribly disappointing.”  I continued to experience the encounter through opposing lenses, hungry and disgusted, excited and bored.

When he said he wanted to be inside me (ugh), I said, “Too bad.”  At which point he shut up, calmed himself down, and got off of me.

He’s not bad for a Nigel, but I’d rather he didn’t want to fuck me like that in the first place.  I’d also rather I was ready to go cold turkey (no more men) and not let him dominate me any more, instead of watching and “enjoying.”  I’d rather I didn’t have fucking emotions up around him.

If there’s one thing I’m glad of, it’s the preset limit on our time together.  I’m sad about it, because of those emotions (trauma bonds?), but I’m glad that I have an out since I don’t presently seem able to set boundaries that suit my politics .

I’ve seen him since.  I wondered, will we have sex?  Maybe?  Probably?  I think I want to…better him than someone else?  Like, I wanted to NOT want to, but I still haven’t been able to wash my brain of the conditioning.  I still have unpleasant fantasies that get me high and lead me to seek men and PIV.  On the plus side, I discovered that I was completely uninterested when I saw him, even a little repulsed.  That was kinda cool.  Some say if you avoid PIV for a certain amount of time, it gets easier.  The trauma bonds break, and you are less likely to put yourself in situations where PIV is probable.  I’m hoping for that.  Still dealing with thoughts about other men, and still dealing with the unpleasant fantasies.

I have noticed since I started having sex with a woman that my fantasies and turn-ons have changed, and I think this is huge!  This is the deprogramming!  Before, my sexuality was male-centered, all a psychological response to his experience rather than an experience of my own pleasure.  And since all they really wanted was PIV (and had no understanding of the pleasure of subtle sensation), I didn’t like anything but PIV, with me on the bottom.  Just fuck me.  I don’t really like it, but I’ll get off on his getting off.  And because of this, I also wasn’t sure I was cut out for sex with women.  You mean I can’t just lie back and take it?  I have to do things?  What if I’m an empty submissive with no erotic energy of my own?  What if it turns out that I’m not sexually attracted to her after all?  I was afraid.  But guess what?  The sex was amazing.  It shattered my stunted understanding of what sex was and reshaped it into something wonderful.  Maybe I got lucky with this lover, I don’t know.  But I crave the way she touches me.  I fantasize about lesbian sex.  I dream of women.  Thinking of them turns me on.  I imagine our bodies, our fat and muscle, our skin and hair, our hands and tongues, our angles and curves and kisses and cuddles and the tangled knot of our embrace and clasped hands and sighs and squeals…it is entirely different from what I feel about men.  Before I experienced it, I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t think I was capable of sexual attraction to women, but I was.  I changed.  And I think any woman’s lesbian desire, given the room, can grow and bloom.

What’s the point of the reprogramming?  Get rid of the heterosexual ideology.  Decolonize your mind and body.  Make room for sisterhood and liberation.

So, right, making room for liberation.  Not dating any men right now, but that’s more coincidence than the result of firm resolve.  Not having PIV, but fantasizing about it an awful lot.  Yuck.

My hair

I had some hair.  I cut that hair.  ” For Susan Brownmiller!*” I said.

[*author of Femininity]

I had finally come to feel what a drag my hair was to me.  I spent as little time as possible on it, combing it every few weeks.  I think not all long hair is necessarily less practical than all short hair; there are more factors to consider.  And long hair does not a ‘bad feminist” make.  But factors and events converged, and for me, the time had come.

So, the hair trade, huh?  I eventually accepted that some people were actually making wigs, that not every buyer got a boner from possessing a woman’s dismembered body part (necrophilia, anyone?).  I don’t think either is harmless.  On the one hand, there’s this cutting/shaving fetish, which is certainly on the spectrum of violence/torture/humiliation of women.  On the other hand, the beauty industry and the physical appearance standards within the program of femininity (“Femininity, in essence, is a romantic sentiment, a nostalgic tradition of imposed limitations” -Brownmiller).

I definitely wasn’t going to support beauty standards by contributing to any “wigs for kids” scheme (the kids are mostly girls, because they have standards to live up to, and the boys don’t mind so much being bald or shaved, because it isn’t socially important) (“Girls feel bad about not meeting beauty standards so let’s help them meet them” instead of “let’s destroy the beauty standards”).

It was pretty disgusting how many acquaintances assumed I’d sold it, or considered it a shame that I didn’t.  You know how I heard that?  “It’s a shame you don’t want to be a fetish object and let thousands of internet pervs get off on seeing you in a torture metaphor.”  (“Any violation of a woman’s body can become sex for men; this is the essential truth of pornography.”  -Andrea Dworkin)

It’s my body.  I disposed of it privately.