Creating women’s culture

by cherryblossomlife

Inspired by two posts, On Feminist Writing, and I’m tired of Being the Token Woman, I’ve been thinking about what it would take for women to reject malestream culture en masse and create their own.

Women have traditionally had two choices when it came to the arts: to express truth, or be acknowledged.

Let too much pain show through and you’ll be dismissed as sentimental. Express the female condition too accurately and eyes glaze over. Don’t, whatever you do, reveal that you know what makes men tick… And never make the mistake of writing “like a man” as Andrea Dworkin did, or you might find publishers rejecting your work on that very basis.

I was not supposed to say, for example, “Women are raped.” I was supposed to say, “Green-eyed women with one leg longer than the other, hair between the teeth, French poodles, and a taste for sautéed vegetables are raped occasionally on Fridays by persons.” It was rough. I believed I had the right to say what I wanted. My desires were not particularly whimsical: my sources were history, facts, experience. I had been brought up in an almost exclusive tradition of male literature, and that tradition, whatever its faults, did not teach coyness or fear: the writers I admired were blunt and not particularly polite. I did not understand that–even as a writer–I was supposed to be delicate, fragile, intuitive, personal, introspective. I wanted to claim the public world of action, not the private world of feelings. My ambition was perceived as megalomaniacal–in the wrong sphere, demented by prior definition. Yes, I was naive. I had not learned my proper place. I knew what I was rebelling against in life, but I did not know that literature had the same sorry boundaries, the same absurd rules, the same cruel proscriptions.”

*I had been warned early on about what it meant to be a girl, but I hadn’t listened. “You write like a man,” and editor wrote me on reading a draft of a few chapters of Woman Hating. “When you learn to write like a woman, we will consider publishing you.” [Bold and Italics mine] (Dworkin, Our Blood)

You can always attempt to write under a male pseudonym which seems to have been an effective strategy for some women. JK Rowling deliberately did not reveal her full name because she knew boys wouldn’t buy a book by a female author. But even so, you can’t journey too far into the truth lest publishers or the public become suspicious.

How much harder than men have women had to work, then, while balancing on the tightrope between truth and acceptance? Given that they have had to compress the truth they knew into palatable bites in order to be published, be taken seriously, or for anyone at all to understand what they were writing, it is amazing that so many women have actually achieved acknowledgement over the years.

And it is no mean feat that they managed to do so while writing and competing alongside men who themselves did not have to choose: men simply wrote their truth and were acknowledged.

Here’s a hint for you. If you want to succeed, add a twist of misogyny and stir. Or a shedload. The more misogynistic the work, the greater its chance of critical acclaim and success.

Write a book about raping a little girl called Lolita in order to titillate yourself and your male readers, who will then pretend you have created insightful art and proceed to mock anyone who questions the white-male-middle-class-analysis as unsophisticated bumpkins, and you will find your place in history as one of the Greats.

Write a book about murdering your wife before anally raping your maid, who secretly wanted it, and of this you are certain because you walked in on her masturbating, and you will go down in history as one of the great literati. Just as Norman Mailer did. You could then go on to stab your wife in real life. Just as Norman Mailor did.

Women who morph and adapted to their surroundings may be very successful, but the crystal clear sound of integrity which lies at the root of true art will be absent.

It is time for women to reject mainstream culture in all its forms and create our own. The process has already begun. We no longer need to tune into male-directed dramas and soaps which make us feel as though we’re being slowly lobotomized. We can log online and chat with other like-minded women. We can activate some of men’s greatest fears: the concept of women bonding together..and possibly scheming. Research has shown that what men fear most when walking past a group of women is that they might be laughed at. (Incidentally, the same research revealed that what women fear most when walking past a group of men is death)

As Bidisha pointed out:

“It’s all the more galling given that women equal or outnumber men as attendees of arts festivals, concerts, readings, discussions and debates, and as arts and humanities students at university. Women write, read, edit and publicise more fiction than men. Women make up the majority of executive, PR and organisational staff in arts and cultural institutions. Women’s ticket revenue, licence fees, book purchases and entrance fees are being used to fund events at which women artists and thinkers are marginalised with breathtaking obviousness.”

We need no longer buy men’s books, or take anything they say seriously.

We will create a new culture… the internet is a perfect tool…and not just for writing, but for singing too and many other art forms. We can reject the painted, mannequinesque , starving and silliconed vision of “beauty” that men’s minds have created for us to emulate, and present ourselves as we are. And if men don’t find us beautiful (as I suspect they do not), and if they do not like, or understand, our art (as I suspect they do not), then we will have to live with that.

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82 Responses to “Creating women’s culture”

  1. If it’s an above-ground “women’s culture” you can bet that males will be there with all their fake-everything on.

    We’ve just seen the headline stories of two males masquerading as * Lesbian * bloggers in the last few days. They didn’t announce themselves as twanz, so they still get counted as fakes. And of course, none of the coverage is about damage done to real-life women and lesbians as a result of this.

    It’s been for bloody ever, like 40 years, that dykes have been trying to boot SCAMs (Surgically and Chemically Altered Males) out of our gathering places. The result has been that the only actual women who support us are Lesbian Separatists. So, for a while there, separatists started having our own gatherings. Meanwhile, SCAMS proceeded to take over “feminism”, “women’s” shelters, women’s bathrooms, “women’s” culture.

    So.

    It’s not as if we haven’t been trying. Forty years ago there was no internet but there was a *way* more powerful, actual *women’s* community and culture that thrived and spread like dandelions in the spring. Until.

    By all means, let’s get the Lesbian Separatist show back on the road. But just remember, we live real, stuck-in-a-human-body-in-the-space-time-continuum lives and that *culture* is about the things we do every day with the people that we interact with the most.

    Oh, and by the way. “Women’s” culture means no men in it. If you’re married, hubby isn’t part of it. And if you have a male child, even the baby jeebus isn’t part of it.

  2. Well said. Women have been silenced through the generations and are so used to being silenced they haven’t yet ventured out into the fullness of their voices. But the tools are here. The technology exists for women to not only bypass the gatekeepers bent on silencing us but to do so with minimum cost.

    When I first logged on the Internet, there were no women’s sites. I’m proud to say Moondance, my emag, was the first dedicated to women. I’m also proud to say there are hundreds of them today. Add in all the women bloggers, women only discussion lists, ebooks and women’s forums, our voice is growing louder every day. We can and do bypass the male culture and its domination of public discussion — or we can take part in it on an equal footing.

    Whether we choose women only spaces or places where both sexes converge, our voices are being heard loud and clear — at last.

  3. I love this post, very inspiring. I think the Internet is a big part of the solution but powers that be have tentacles here too. If you want to make money, if you want prestigious awards, you have to disguise the truth, not tell it directly. It’s not just that eyes will glaze over but you will be called a man-hater. But women who disguise the truth are also treated with contempt – after all, men sense how “cowardly” it is, how it is avoiding the truth. As much as I appreciate some of dworkins insights, I think she is wring about them writing truthfully. They lie even more thoroughly than women, and are far more coy, though in guise of tough prose. It is rhetorical and manipulative, combined with truth. Dworkin expressed a lot of rage toward men in her writing, but I think she also had a lot of underlying respect for men, which was unfortunate and undeserved. She had respect for women but this was learned, willed by her, a choice. We are greatly affected by our cultures so this in itself was groundbreaking.

  4. Excellent post, Cherry.

    I think the arts are overrated, I think they are overrated because they make a useful screen across the face of reality. They are largely a means of propaganda; sometimes an expression of the sorrow and joy of living, or a creative sense of the spiritual. But any expression is only an echo of material being. I think it is far more important to be a feminist than to be a writer; our shelves are full of scribblers, whole books have been written so the subtlest tint of truth can be glimpsed somewhere in chapter four!

    I agree with, Adrienne, men don’t write the truth either, they understand they are making a living by being part of the screen that covers the misdeeds of men, or occasionally hints at them provocatively. If we are going to read books by men we should read the ones not for public consumption, like Machiavelli’s ” The prince” or the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu. Few entertainers have made literature count toward social reform as Dickens did, and even he had to sugar coat the pill. Women’s literature has traditionally been even more constrained. That is what makes the writing of radical feminists so a-mazing, they beat the hell out of novels.

    “It is time for women to reject mainstream culture in all its forms and create our own. The process has already begun. We no longer need to tune into male-directed dramas and soaps which make us feel as though we’re being slowly lobotomised.”

    Yes, we have a new opportunity to turn away from ingrained role models and become the people we really are, feminists to a woman; — the ultimate rebels and freedom fighters.

  5. MarySunshine, Yes, even our baby boys cannot be part of women’s culture. Masculine culture- the process of masculizing boys- is stronger that women. Psychoanalysts would have us believe that men commit crimes because their mothers were narcissists, or abusive, or poor. BUt it’s none of those things. Women aren’t to blame for men’s behaviour. The entire culture indoctrinates boy children into becoming oppressors from the moment they’re born. A mother can *try* to steer her son away from it, but ultimately she will never be more influential than his peers.
    The only solution is to crush masculine culture from the root: wipe porn off the face of the planet and eject men from their leadership roles. Men are not designed to be leaders, they don’t have it in them. They only know how to oppress and exploit.
    But, I *do* believe that once women are liberated and we are leaders ourselves, men can learn from us. But we will always have to be vigilant and remember the way they have treated us. We must never forget.

    Loretta, it’s wonderful that your e-mag was one of the pioneering websites for women’s thoughts. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t had access to the internet I would not be a radical feminist today

    A, Thanks for finding the post inspiring! yes you are right there.. men’s literature is full of lies. Especially about women! Do you think it’s possible that men feel uncomfortable when they read writing by men that actually lays it bare?

    Zeph, I agree that the arts are overrated. As is “culture” or “civilization”. It is all a smokescreen to prop up one segment of humanity: white men. If they had been *fair* and recognized true art in Others, whether it was by a women or aborigines or whoever, then I could take their art more seriously. But how can they call themselves artists if it is only *they* who get to define what art is? It’s like the person who set the exam questions sitting the exam himself.

  6. ETA: MarySunshine, I see your point that women have been trying to create women’s culture for generations, and that Lesbian Separatists have been pioneering this. They have paved the way for women when it comes to imaginining alternatives. I should have acknowledged that.

    I suppose that *rejecting* malestream culture is going to be the piece of the jigsaw that the internet can provide. In the past if a woman wanted to learn about the news she had no choice but to watch the TV. Now she can read it in a variety of sources and she can analyze what has been written. I suppose I’m talking about reaching out to non-feminist women, (which is what I meant when I said this change is going to have to take place en masse ) and showing them that society teaches us to respect men and their work, but that that respect is undeserved.

  7. I think what girls experience in childhood with other girls is the closest many of us will ever come to experiencing women’s culture…and I have such fond memories of my girlfriends as a child and teenager, hanging out in the kitchen with our moms, going swimming, watching movies and just laughing and laughing all day (and all night too, which moms weren’t too happy with but it sure was fun. And hilarious!) Once you start hanging out socially with boys and men, and certainly once you’ve had piv everything changes doesn’t it? It’s heartbreaking is what it is. Everything previously good and fun (including non-piv sexual encounters with girls OR boys) turns into stressful terrifying bullshit, and the laughter seems like a distant memory. Some of these memories are probably overly romantic because I was young and healthy without adult responsibility…but my childhood was very far from sheltered or carefree so its not as if that’s what I’m remembering so fondly. I really think it was being female-identified all those years. I miss it.

  8. The FAAB-only discussions on the radfem blogs is such a welcome haven, and a nice surprise. I didn’t even fully realize how inadequate and inane men really are, until they were excluded and the women got to shine. Amazing!

  9. Great post, CBL! I appreciate the chance to dialogue about Women’s Art. Yes, Mary, no men in it! Perhaps those women living with men or who have lived with men in the past have the chance to clarify for themselves and others through their art—How to reject colonization, having been hooked into it, the ideal being to come free of it. The women who have never lived with men beyond (possibly) their birth family and who rejected men from a young age have something rare to offer through art, a vision that most women have not seen, having had it censored from their lives. My thought is that this is potentially for all women, but never at the expense of compromise. One thought I have is how to create a women-only space through art that can then be experienced as a women-only space. Art that uses bdsm, for example, is not rebellious/edgy, etc. and does not create a space that can be experienced by the reader/viewer/listener as women-only space. No men, and no misogyny in it!

    The internet does provide a platform, but is not without difficulties. Witness the recent “lesbian” hoax website. It seems that some women, particularly the lesbian separatists and radical feminists were not at all fooled into thinking it was a legitimate site. The shame of it is, though, that women who had not yet articulated what it means to be a lesbian and who were searching for something that would help them sort out the confusion were likely to become disheartened or further confused. This is also the problem with the trans sites and postmodern sex-pozzie type “lesbians,” not just an out-and-out imposter site. Because of the oppressive culture, it is hard to sort things out when you are just starting, and younger women are prevented from doing this when they run across these sites.

    There are various opinions on the webs about the recent hoax, everything from these men were sicko pervs, to they were a front for some kind of a group like the right wing trying to hurt women and disrupt lesbian culture, or U.S. or international intelligence intent on shaping opinion about the Middle East. Maybe it’s any combination of the above or something equally toxic. I don’t care to waste time trying to sort it out, because the bottom line, really, is that they are an evil part of the patriarchy. The patriarchy has always used the Arts to shape public opinion. We can talk about the misogyny built into the Arts, about the nationalist propaganda deliberately crafted through Hollywood during times of war, or the Red Scare that used censoring and censuring in the Arts. This is in recent times in the U.S., understanding that there are global and historical examples ad infinitum. Some are obvious, some, more subtle. Whatever we do, we should expect and not be naïve about these kinds of attacks. On the other hand, what we want to do is to create, to offer something for women. To build women’s culture. The topic is vast and varied. Thanks again for starting this conversation.

  10. I’m not trying to be negative or to dismiss this article. I think the idea of women reclaiming their own culture is wonderful. It’s just that women have a culture…it’s in the kitchen, it’s with female relatives, it’s under a burka, it’s half naked in the pages of magazines. It’s at pole dancing classes and slutwalks. Culture exists and shapes people’s perceptions of us whether we particpate in it or not. You can’t just turn your back on it and create a new culture. And men infiltrate, dominate, destroy women’s spaces everytime they pop up. I think that’s why women used to have secret covens that met in the middle of the night, LOL.

    However, women bonding, working together in solidarity, that is the key to everything, so if it happens over art and rejecting mainstream male dominated culture, wonderful.

  11. .

    I think what girls experience in childhood with other girls is the closest many of us will ever come to experiencing women’s culture…and I have such fond memories of my girlfriends as a child and teenager, hanging out in the kitchen with our moms, going swimming, watching movies and just laughing and laughing all day (and all night too, which moms weren’t too happy with but it sure was fun. And hilarious!)

    I agree with you, and I’ve had those experiences in childhood and it points the way. I’ve been thinking about this as it is portrayed in literature and the way it is betrayed. For example, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (I read the book, but didn’t see the movie). Women’s culture is portrayed in a way that makes us long for that kind of connection and celebrates it. This portrayal is well-done, beautiful and deep, and the movie passes the Bechtel test. It also illustrates the way misogyny deeply hurts women, and the internalized oppression of mothers that causes them to harm their daughters, even to the point of sentencing them to death. It also critiques the Catholic church and celebrates a women-centered religion (the Ya-Yas).

    The big flaw is the flaw of male exceptionalism. I am tempted to say it is disappointing in the ways it uncritically accepts the behavior of men who are YaYa husbands. It does not clearly show how misogyny/men/male culture motivated the abusive mothers’ behavior and leaves that somewhat of a mystery. There are two “exceptional” men who are found, the fiancé of Vivi (the mother) who died before they could marry. She spends her life longing for him. Then there is the fiancé of the main character, who she decides to marry after working through her difficulties with her mother/ability to love. (Little mention is made of the difficulties with fathers).

    While I am tempted to say that it is disappointing, I think it is much worse than that. It appeals to women who are headed in the right direction, draws on the hunger for the women-only space that is our ultimate freedom. In other words, it directs us to the model where “each woman lives with her colonizer and calls it fulfillment/love. ” It points women in the direction of finding the exceptional male. Lures women in, and then they drink the Coolaid. It is the kind of “art” that book and film makers are willing to publish/produce. It has the effect of silencing the women who begin to understand. It is seen as advanced and feminist since it is better than a James Bond book/movie. I wouldn’t be inclined to read/watch James Bond, however.

    We need something more radical. Like, the YaYas refuse to marry and start a women’s commune based on an advanced understanding of YaYa spirituality, thus also rejecting the misogynist Catholic Church. Exceptional men don’t even try to pairbond with women. Instead they take effective action to prosecute johns and rapists. Or to raise male children who are not misogynist. The best of the exceptional lot might be chosen as sperm donors (I’m not being sarcastic when I say that) for women who choose to procreate.

  12. FCM, GOD the memories I have of girlhood, and as a teenager too! Laughing until I was bent double and my stomach hurt,, almost evey single day– with my girlfriends. I remember at the age of about 12 lying on the grass in a friend’s garden in the summer just LAUGHING and laughing as the sun shone on my face.

    I used to go on a bike ride every single SUnday from the age of 13 with my closest friend and we would choose a new route each week and just get lost in the mountains…
    From the moment a woman enters the world of men she loses all of this, even if she keeps friendships with other women. I can’T put my finger on it, but something is gone. Forever, probably. I think the trauma she experiences is often like Chinese water torture.. a gradual drip drip chipping away at her girlhood and the person she used to be. (P.S did you see the two young girls sharing a secret smile in the youtube clip. I remember that feeling of working closely with a friend.. composing music or whatever, and just being so in tune with her that I would *know* what was going through her head at any given moment)

    Katie thanks for your insightful posts. The abusive mother is almost always influenced by patriarchy.. and this background is never examined in male art, and only rarely in women’s art. She is often poor, mentally ill, at the end of her tether, living with a rapist/abuser, trapped, unable to work in a fulfilling job, raising a child she never planned, stuck without transport or enough money to live properly. And yet men have no excuse for the way they treat children, because they have been handed the world on a plate since birth… but men abuse children more often and more brutally than women ever do… and the shocker is men hardly spend any time with children.
    (Only problem I have with your post is sperm donation! IVF is more likely to cause complications in the pregnant mother such as placenta praevia (where the placenta lies low in the womb and accross the cervix) so natural conception is just better all-round for women who want to reproduce. But apart from that, agree with everything you said. Sorry. As you were. 🙂 )

    yttik, I agree with you that women’s culture exists, and a lot of it is beautiful, but it’s difficult to tell how much of it is just accommodation to oppression.. I wouldn’T want to lose the private world of women either and I don’t think that’s inevitable but I believe wOmen can be and do so much more than they are currently allowed to. I’ve written a post called The Backround, which I think touches on your point. [Feel free to let me know if it doesn’t 🙂 ] http://cherryblossomlife.com/2011/04/28/the-background/

  13. Hi CBL,

    Great thread!

    You said:

    Only problem I have with your post is sperm donation! IVF is more likely to cause complications in the pregnant mother such as placenta praevia (where the placenta lies low in the womb and accross the cervix

    Sperm donation is not IVF.

    Sperm donation is the old turkey-baster routine. IVF is hella hi-tech and scary.

    Problem with sperm donation is, offspring are 90% male babies. 😦 😦

    That can be ameliorated by using a centrifuge to select only the heavier XX spermatatoids.

    Nevertheless, in a malefree world we have the natural female reproductive method of parthenogenesis. See you there! 😛

  14. Ok, Plan B–Those exceptional men who proved their worth (a point system) would be able to have PIV sex with women who volunteered to be impregnated. Someone who writes novels could come up with a better idea for that part of Ya-Ya Revisited story and she’d have to do her research on the medical stuff first.

    Wait! scratch that! Do her research on various traditional cultures and their ways of understanding women’s bodies (fertility, safety, etc) and then add in some science that made sense. Try to keep out the harmful medical stuff unless it made sense. Finding the very best approaches to impregnation/pregnancy could be part of the educational value of the story.

    Parthenogenesis–well, I liked Herland, but it was fantasy/sci-fi genre.

  15. thanks for those excellent and valuable pointers MarySunshine and Katie 🙂

    Ah yes, IVF is putting the sperm in the egg in vitro isn’t it. (terrible practice, harvesting women for eggs 😦 )
    THe ol’ turkey baster routine–I don’t have a problem with that -unless it produces more males!?!?!?! And I also heard that a woman’s orgasm helps her to conceive and suck in the sperm. Or something.

    I was having a convo on Zeph’s blog which fascinated me. I personally don’t have a problem with allowing a few particularly gorgeous men to reproduce. Here’s a quote from Zeph:

    “If women become free, only some men will become fathers, the rest have their genetic futures to lose, which is why those men will fight to keep us suppressed. I think it was Andrea who said something like “It is always the losers at the back of the bar who are most anti women” the ones who no woman wants to go into labour for, and then of course, there are wealthy old men who, in countries where patriarchy is still absolute, continue to demand young girls for reproductive purposes. What girl would choose an ageing rapist to father her children? Women should be free to select from men and share them if other girls select the same ones, and men should accept our choices, but most won’t. This is the heart of the battle between men and women, it is the men we would choose and us, against all the rest . Under such circumstances being chosen could be a bit of a poisoned chalice.”

    http://reallyrad.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/curses-a-few-thoughts/

  16. I was amazed that any man could create a fake lesbian persona on the internet, because when I looked at that site ages ago, it was so obviously NOT lesbian. One of the few women I have talked to IRL on the phone from the feminist sites knows all the lesbian lore, we can compare notes on radfems going back 40 years. We have a very vibrant international lesbian culture, and radical lesbian separatist were the powerhouses on this front. Mary Daly was a separatist and uttered powerful words “I am interested in what women think, not what men think.” That simple statement gave me courage, and now I can go anywhere and talk to women and avoid male commentary My goal is to reach the women…men become non-existant. Lesbian separatists are the least understood and most marginalized of all the feminists… and I mean LESBIANS here. Lesbians love women, we take the love of women as primary. It has nothing to do with the male world. Women’s culture is everywhere— Girl Scout troops of my childhood were powerful, my Mom had a college sorority, we had lesbian groups in many countries. And women are creating more and more women’s space, and it’s growing in new ways. I meet business women all over the place, we create women only concepts of business, we come together across race and sexual orientation. It is now possible to meet many straight women who actually SHOCK have had close lesbian friends for YEARS! This is a breakthrough.

  17. Can’t figure out how to copy and paste with iPhone so to rephrase cbl, “are men uncomortable when they read men who expose the truth?” I think that is such a rare thing. Not that rare in really good writing to see glimpses of truth . I’ve never read fiction by men fully committed to exposing the truth. I think most women and men don’t even tell themselves the truth, even though they might know it, and recognize it when they read someone else’s truthtellng. Its like the highways are created already, and you can’t just take a left or do a u ee when you see some truth you want to move toward. Art is kind of the same way. You have to work within societally established parameters, and add what you can. For instance, if a great novelist who had the same understandings about trans politics wrote a great no el that toldthe truth as she or he saw/felt… Well just imagine. Uh uh, not ging to get published, and even if it would be, if meant for mainstream, would have to explain every step of the way, in the storyline. It’s like you’d have to build your own highway system and then how do you get around to telling the story?

    But back to your original question, I think men and henchwomen to use mary dalys term go after men who tell the truth though not the way they go after women. But it is rare and happens in nonfiction. I mean you can read male fiction writers who are sympathetic to women, but I can’t think of any that captures the complexity of sexist oppression.

    But all that said, I do think it’s important that feminists don’t write off the mainstream, or established venues for creating culture. Because the grass does grow through the cracks. If eve ensler wrote off play writing for general audience would we have the vagina monologues? Would the mainstream have it, millions of lives changed by it? I became cynical for many years after reading dworkin, and didn’t bother with mainstream. I don’t think that is helpful. To risk the wrath of rad feminists ( or maybe not), I think feminists need to keep pressure on ourselves to tell the truth, to do reality checks with evey established line of thought in rad feminism. I think dworkin was a big influence in hyperbole that is used. Not all the time but often. Dworkin was such a groundbreaker in many ways, and I suspect that she used her hyperbole in part as a psychological fortress, as well as to galvanize activists. But it worked against her and ultimately the movement. I think it works against rad feminism when we use it too.

  18. A life time ago when I realised that I had been denied an entire cannon of literature (womons) during my formative years at school, I decided never again to read any fiction written by men, and I have kept to that and never had any regrets. Year upon year I have become more and more womon centred and less and less engaged in male cultured wherever I can. It is truly wonderful to have this and other FAAB space to exchange ideas and learn from each others knowledge and experiences so desperately needed. In the early days of 2nd wave it was all female culture enclaves it was great and it was a nourishing and cherished experience being with like minded womon is the best and womon friends are the most powerful and empowering relationships, men know this and want to wrench them down where ever they can. I never wanted to cross the line into man land even though I am stacked in it, every where I look and I hate it with the zeal of a warrior.

    I admire Dworkin because at great personal cost she spoke truth to power on behalf of all womon and attempted to expose the sexist vile misogynist culture ordained by males. Her affirming books gave theory to my own beliefs and experiences, she was a trail blazer an Amazon and Rad-Fem Icon.
    I met her in Brighton and over coffee she talked about the ever present fear that she would be assassinated. On a daily basis she received death threats. When as womon we attempt to expose male culture for the gutter sniping that it is we risk all, in every sense of the word. She is not the only womon to experience the wrath of the male establishment Kate Millet was also treated in this manner ( and millions more) when she exposed the ‘real’ misogynist truth about writers like DH Lawrence.

    Only to-day I was listening to an interview with the artist Judi Chicago, her work The Dinner Party( which I have seen in the eighties here in UK) and other subsequent work from a womons cultural perspective was and is much maligned by the male establishment . She spoke of artists like Emin and said that when womon express their cultural experiences in art they are accused of being self absorbed yet men expressing personal experiences are geniuses!!!! She talked about how young womon are fearful of feminism because they have been denied the tools to own and know their own female culture and unlike boyz have a tough time feeling proud and inspired by womons culture because they don’t know about.they only know about male culture, that is in their face daily.

  19. I love your post, Cherry. Thank you for it.

    Ybawife, I love your comment about reading all women fiction authors, and may need to impliment it in my own life. I’ve been swimming in nothing but feminist fiction and nonfic,nearly all spring, and paused to read Jonathan Franzen’s _Freedom_. What a mistake– it was so clear from his writing that he hates women. I wonder, though, If I would have even noticed his misogyny if I hadn’t been surrounding my self with female authors and feminist thinkers.

    Cherry, this is another reason why we need women’s culture– so we can more clearly identify women haters when we encounter them.

    -smash (formerly dasunrisin)

  20. “I think dworkin was a big influence in hyperbole that is used. Not all the time but often. Dworkin was such a groundbreaker in many ways, and I suspect that she used her hyperbole in part as a psychological fortress, as well as to galvanize activists. But it worked against her and ultimately the movement. I think it works against rad feminism when we use it too.”

    I don’t think Dworkin’s work was hyperbole, for all it’s fierceness and brilliance, it still understated how bad things are for women. Her work did not work against the movement, it pushed it forward by leaps and bounds. All radical feminism works against the women who have the courage to expound it, because we live in a patriarchy!

  21. A life time ago when I realised that I had been denied an entire cannon of literature (womons) during my formative years at school, I decided never again to read any fiction written by men, and I have kept to that and never had any regrets.

    I have come to this late, but agree that this is my emphasis, too. I critiqued the “Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood” above. I loved it because there was so much good in it about women’s relationships and the pain of misogyny that is shared and buffered by the other women. There is much subtlty in the relationships between women that no man could describe. But I also think there are some problems with it. It would have been wonderful if the main character would have been working out a relationship with a another women, either a lesbian relationship or a friendship. I described a more far-out ending ;), but then I’m not a novelist.

    Not long ago I signed up for an adult ed playwriting class taught by a woman (I’ve never thought of writing a play in my life, but thought I’d like to learn more about it). When she passed out the rather long list of plays we were to read, there was not a single woman’s name on it. I recognized some of the misogynist plays, though. I just could not stomach it and dropped the class. I mean like I could not bring myself to go back. Perhaps I should have said something to help her get the picture, but it was just more than I could stand. Some of it was her behavior in the class, too. When I mentioned the Vagina Monologues in a class discussion, it was clear she did not like this type of theater. There was one man in the class and she was making him the center of attention. I am not unsympathetic. She has plays that have been produced and I know that must have been difficult. I am flabbergasted still when I think of the reading list. Ok, writing about this may help me be more sympathetic to her. I still wouldn’t take her class, but it might be useful to educate her.

  22. agree zeph. hyperbole? seriously? i dont get this, at all. dworkin changed the game, and she is still changing the game, for many who actually read what she wrote and appreciate not only what she said but HOW she said it. she was a gifted writer, and used words and style strategically; then she told us all what her strategy was so we didnt have to reinvent that particular wheel. dworkin gave us all a great gift, and i am protective of it, and of her. her work WAS understated, believe it or not! she believed in mens humanity. *if* anything she did worked against the movement, it has to be that. she didnt exaggerate anything, or make it up, she didnt have to. she told the truth…and still, she held out hope for men. i dont know why, but she did. and still, she is probably the most despised woman who ever lived, for telling the truth about intercourse, and for daring to challenge mens sexual entitlement to womens bodies.

    hyperbole? really? sheesh!

  23. I’m with you all, hyperbole? No.
    I do remember much of the criticism of Dworkin (and others) came from the idea that she focussed on ‘extremes’ with ‘litanies of horror’.
    It became fashionable to criticise a lot of radfems for their “victimology”, and claims to stop focussing on the ‘horror show’.
    *sheesh*, indeed. Being female is living in a ‘horror show’.

  24. Dworkin was such a groundbreaker in many ways, and I suspect that she used her hyperbole in part as a psychological fortress, as well as to galvanize activists. But it worked against her and ultimately the movement. I think it works against rad feminism when we use it too.

    A, I disagree. It did not work against us, but the reverse. It’s the only way to move forward. Of course, we are told by the patriarchy that we mustn’t step out of line, that we must be nice. The patriarchy will never change because we ask them nicely. The liberal feminists have gone along with this and it’s nearly killed feminism. They are raping and murdering girls and women all the time. We cannot afford to be nice. It’s a misconception that it will work. As a class, men are vile and violent. This is a meme that is particularly toxic.

  25. even freud came to realize eventually, didnt he, that his female patients were telling the truth about what men did to them, as children and as adults? the horror show is real. and whats “extreme” anyway? something that is so horrifying YOU cant personally imagine it being true, and that its happened not just once but repeatedly, countless times to countless girls and women across time and place? is this the criteria we are using now for whats acceptable to talk about, and whats beneficial (or harmful) to the movement?

    what ever happened to telling the fucking truth, no matter what? *that* was dworkins goal. and she did what she set out to do.

  26. actually no, womens liberation was dworkins goal wasnt it? not advancing a fucking movement. and telling the truth no matter what was her…what? compulsion? self-sacrifice? whatever it was, it was a gift to all of us. dworkin as hyperbole! omg. thats the third wave for you!

  27. ok now im comment-spamming (sorry cherry!) but fucking hugo also believes that dworkin was hyperbole. she was just speaking figuratively when she exposed PIV for what it was and what it did and does to women, and between women and men. its not meant to be taken literally darlings! its all a metaphor! meanwhile, old hugo is telling his female students to just call it “envelop” instead of “penetrate” and all the problems with PIV are solved. because its all been in womens minds this whole time, see? the problems with PIV arent real! only what *i* say is real, really is. and whatever *i* say is a metaphor, is one. and when any of us internet radfems takes the obvious next step (or highlights what she actually did say, because she did actually go there in intercourse, oh yes she did!) and address oh you know, the dangers of pregnancy and trauma-bonding…we are MISREADING DWORKIN. no, dworkin never said that, and we definitely arent taking her work further, either, or taking a thought to its COMPLETELY OBVIOUS and logical end. DUH!

  28. ybawife! you’ve met Dworkin and had a chat with her”in Brighton over coffee”?
    [gawps in awe at ybawife]
    I didn’t realize she’d received so many death threats… but now you mention it, of course she did.

    A, Not sure whether you meant to diss The Dworkin when you said “hyperbole” because I’ve seen that word used in a variety of contexts but I agree with what others here have said: THere is no way that *anything* Dworkin did or said could ever be interpreted as working against the women’s liberation movement, any more than something Martin LUther King might have said could be construed today as having worked against the civil rights movement. The context behind Dworkin’s work is that she (alongside a couple of others) WAS and IS the women’s movement.

    smashthep Thanks for liking the post!

    FCM Yes, Dworkin was committed to telling the truth, because she knew that the truth was worse than any sadist’s fantasies. FUcking hell, what she and Catherine Mackinnon had to learn about what men did to women, so that they could write about it in order for other people to sit up and take notice makes my blood run cold. They must have been having perpetual nightmares; they must have been trapped inside their minds with nowhere to escape because everwhere they looked they were confronted with yet more horror. And they couldn’t ignore it, because they were the only ones writing about it so they knew the buck stopped with them.

    “only what *i* say is real, really is. and whatever *i* say is a metaphor, is one.” 🙂

    “even freud came to realize eventually, didnt he, that his female patients were telling the truth about what men did to them, as children and as adults? ”
    It was worse than that. He originally wrote document about the prevalence of sexual abuse amongst middle class victorian girls — explaining that the perpetrators were their fathers or other family members. Virginia Woolf (who was sexually abused by her step-brother) was one of his patients. He was immediately vilified by the powers that be i.e the Victorian fathers who were fucking their daughters and this led him to re-write the document stating that it was the girls’ minds and that they’d been having fantasies about their fathers all along… I don’t know whether he re-wrote it to save his career, or because the patriarchs convinced him that he was wrong.. but the fact he did originally take the women on face value means I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Freud, even though he did a lot of damage to women after that 😦 (I mean, penis-envy WTF? As IF)

  29. Not that Dworkin isn’t a fascinating topic and one I love, but we so rarely get to talk about culture in our radfem spaces, so I’m going back to the subject of CBL’s post. And yes, absolutely to women’s culture. And yes to deciding what that means, too. I assume the distaste for “Art” is the version with the capital “A” and the gatekeepers of what that means and who will get to make it and present it to the world. I agree, so let’s make every kind of culture we can think of AND make sure that the culture we’re supporting is actually radical. “The Vagina Monologues” is the darling of liberal feminists who can’t quite get their heads around just how misogynist that play really is. (Hint: you can be sure that if audiences world wide fall in love with something, it’s definitely not going to be feminist, let alone radical.) Yes, good on Ensler for making tons of money for the cause, but then, there’s another place that we’ll have to look at for deciding on a women’s culture: that it isn’t about making money. Because most women making culture that is feminist (let alone radical) barely make enough to live on, let alone enough to sponsor entourages and employ dozens of people.

    Women’s culture, made by, for, and about women with a radical feminist ethic looks like Ferron, not Ani DiFranco. It looks like Carolyn Gage, not Eve Ensler. We do have one experience that gives us a hint of what it would be like to be in such a place. At MichFest every single one of the musical artists is a woman and all the crew members are women. Of course everyone in the Crafts Area is a woman, so everything made there was made by a woman’s hands (a requirement to have their work at Festival). The films they show are all made principally by women and they are entirely about women. All week long women are teaching other women how to paint, sculpt, write music, sing, dance (oh, the dancing we do!!), drum (and the awesome drumming!), and play with culture of all kinds. It’s a transforming experience to be in a place where everything gets made by women. It’s not all radical per se, but just being in such a place where women are making and steeping in their own culture is radical in and of itself. Every single woman should try to get to MichFest at least once in her life, there’s no place like it on earth.

  30. I’d never heard of MichFest until a few months ago when somebody mentioned it on my blog. I made a mental note, googled it, and told myself I should definitely make it there once. It does sound like the radical feminist mecca.

    I have to laugh because MRA rhetoric is keen on the idea that radical feminism is a religion, and that Dworkin’s books represent our bible passages. Now we’ve got a pilgrimage too 🙂

  31. Like everything else that women create for ourselves, MichFest is under attack by transactivists. Not because they give a damn about women’s culture, they so obviously don’t. It’s because we cannot be allowed to have our own spaces. So yes, we need a pilgrimage by women to our holy place of culture, where we can revel in and defend our beautiful “home” (every year when I go back and first hear the words “welcome home” I cry with joy).

  32. And speaking of Carolyn Gage, here she is in all her brilliance, talking about art, culture, a particular painting by a woman, religion, and related. It’s a must read.

  33. My wonderful radical feminist sister sent me (also a radical fem, but fairly new to it all) the link to this site, and I just wanted to say thank you for starting it up. It’s wonderful, refreshing, liberating ….. everything ….. to be able to read all the words I have long been wanting to say, but just didn’t know HOW to. I have been devouring all of the contributors blogs all day. I can’t wait to read more!

  34. What a lovely comment Sarah 🙂

  35. Freud knew the truth about the high prevalence of girl rapes by male relatives in turn of the 20th century Vienna. In fact, he was shocked to discover the truth in the hospitals the girls were admitted to— he could see for himselve the injuries to young girls bodies as a result of the rape.
    This discovery would not have endeared him to his colleagues… he covered it up and created all his stupid ideas about women being hysterical rather than victims of horrifying crimes. He didn’t have the courage to speak up. And all male medical elites know the truth and cover it up. It’s just what men do.

  36. Noanodyne, ‘women’s culture mad by women’ would absolutely look like ferron and carolyn gage! We have been fooled and seduced into thinking it’s Eve Ensler. Well, not all of us, but how else would that play have raised millions of dollars? I really like Carolyn Gage’s critique of it, and her analysis of the Jane campion film, ‘The Piano’ is priceless. Thank goddess she’s still with us and still writing!

  37. Carolyn Gage, there’s a name I have not come across before , need to look her up and read these critiques of Ensler and Campions work….both of whom I know about.
    I did participate in a V-Day it was bloody hard work learning the lines and delivering the monologue…..at great personal emotional cost it was….so I need to know about stuff here.
    Tx for the info julius

  38. Thanks Sheila, I didn’t realize he had *actually* seen the injuries to girls. I had assumed he was going by their memories alone.
    That puts him firmly in the “bastard” box.
    That he knew the truth and wrote lies because he chose to prioritize his career by ingratiating himself to men more powerful than himself means that he will go down in history as a quack. *IF* he’d have been one of those rare men of integrity, like Lundy Bancroft (author of Why Does he do that?) then his work may have been remembered. As women gain more power (and we are) these men will be ejected from the history books, or just footnoted as fools with too much influence.

  39. CBL, it gets even worse. Jeffrey Masson wrote a book that I read many years ago, spilling the beans on Freud. I just looked it up on Amazon, it’s The Assault on Truth: Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory . He had some sort of cockeyed theory about operating on women’s noses to cure them from these “delusions.” Harmful operations were done. Later he stopped. I don’t remember all the details in that book, but Masson was in training to become a therapist with the Freudians, so he somehow got access to all kinds of records no one had seen. It made him so sick that he wrote the book and a lot came out that no one had known. Of course, that ended his career as a therapist and his association with the Freudians.

  40. Yes, Jeffrey Masson really did expose Freud’s complicity in hiding the truth. I believe Mother Jones published this as a major story around 1985-86.
    Incidently, Masson is married to Catherine MacKinnan. Freud visited hospitals and was well aware of raped girls, and child abuse, which was probably rampant in the male dominant culture of Vienna at that time. The whole city was one creepy cover-up. I think it is safe to say, knowing what we now know, that no medical men can be trusted to tell the truth about the rape of girls and the molestation of girls, and that male dominated cultures like medicine, science and the church are the very worst places for girls and women to get the truth. Masson was shocked that the Freudian authorities didn’t want to know the truth… even the husband of radical feminist MacKinnan doesn’t fully grasp the lies of patriarchy, but I will say good for him for speaking up about Freud.

  41. Katie, I will look out for that book by Jeffrey Masson, thank you.

    SheilaG, No. No medical men can be trusted to tell the truth. I was just chatting to a seventy year old midwife today. She related me a tale of a woman she was assisting in labour many years ago, except she was only a doula at the time because she hadn’t yet qualified for midwifery. Anyway, what came through in her story was the absolute hatred that the male ob/gyn had for the birthing woman.
    He’d originally said she would be allowed to birth in any position he wanted so when the head was nearly out and they called the doctor she (the doula) had the woman’s leg on her shoulder and moved in order to allow the doctor to put the leg on his shoulder so that he could “catch”the baby. She said she saw him visibly shiver in disgust at the thought. He proceeded to tell them she had to lie flat on her back and when the two women protested the labouring woman’s HUSBAND pushed her onto her back!!! CAN YOU IMAGINE. THe midwife told me she burst into tears. THankfully the mother divorced her husband a few years later.

    Never trust *anything* a medical man says. In fact, whatever he says, assume the opposite to be true.

  42. I’m actually not sure catharine mackinnon is married to this dood? Might want to look that one up, for some reason I think that’s not entirely true, or that there’s more to the story there. Something I picked up along the way, without remembering the details.

  43. I just looked it up on Wikipedia. According to that source “In the early 1990s, Masson had been engaged to University of Michigan feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, who wrote the preface to his A Dark Science: Women, Sexuality, and Psychiatry in the Nineteenth Century.” He’s married to someone else, so apparently did not marry Catharine.

  44. Ybawife wrote, “I admire Dworkin because at great personal cost she spoke truth to power on behalf of all womon and attempted to expose the sexist vile misogynist culture ordained by males.”

    I agree with you. Many feminists fight at great personal cost, and many live with threats. Dworkin was recognized for some of the price she paid to speak the truth because she wrote about it. Others keep silent about the threats and retaliations they are subjected to, but continue the fight.

    To those who took great offense at what I wrote in my two sentences about Dworkin: I belive Dworkin should be recognized for what she contributed, but she was just a person like the rest of us, and she made mistakes as every human being does from time to time. Considering the influence her work has had on radical feminism, I believe it is important that feminists feel free to honestly discuss and criticize her work, without being misrepresented, or deemed “bad,” or treated as if they are expressing an unacceptable form of disrespect. Many misogynists reacted againt Dworkin’s work because of its truth. That doesn’t mean that specific criticisms of problems in her work are reactions against the truth she told, or dismissive of the risks she took to tell them. To the contrary: to honestly discuss and criticize is respectful toward the movement for women’s liberation, which is what her work was about.

    Here is an example of Dworkin’s rhetorical hyperbole that I just found, from “Letters from a War Zone”

    “The war is men against women…

    “For fun they gag us and tie us up as if we are dead meat and hang us from trees and ceilings and door frames and meat hooks; but many say the lynched women probably like it and we don’t have any right to interfere with them (the women) having a good time. For fun they rape us or have other men, or sometimes animals, rape us…”

    I believe speaking about “men” like this erases and simplifies the reality of how sexism works, of how men participate in sexism. This erasure and simplification is how hyperbole works against the movement, in my opinion. It is counterproductive not because it frightens, but because it isn’t accurate. Accuracy is essential in moving forward. Rhetoric is manipulative, and galvanizes temporarily but does not carve out lasting footholds. Instead it encourages backlash, makes backlash easier than it otherwise would be.

    I don’t believe all or most of her writing was rhetorical hyperbole, but some of it was, and the tradition continues, to the detriment of rad feminism.

  45. “For fun they gag us and tie us up as if we are dead meat and hang us from trees and ceilings and door frames and meat hooks; but many say the lynched women probably like it and we don’t have any right to interfere with them (the women) having a good time. For fun they rape us or have other men, or sometimes animals, rape us…”

    “I believe speaking about “men” like this erases and simplifies the reality of how sexism works, of how men participate in sexism. This erasure and simplification is how hyperbole works against the movement, in my opinion.”

    How you can respond to Dworkin’s words above, with over intellectualised words, rendered almost meaningless in this context “like erasure and simplification” I don’t know. You must have no feeling at all for women, who demonstrably are tortured for fun, in porn and in reality. It is hardly difficult, to find depictions of women being tortured and murdered on line. Romans had men, women and children tortured, murdered, and raped by men and animals, in their arenas for entertainment. Is stating that fact, hyperbole?

    “It is counterproductive not because it frightens, but because it isn’t accurate. Accuracy is essential in moving forward.”

    Demonstrate it to be inaccurate. Because there is nothing demonstrably accurate in anything you have said. Andrea could have supplied you with facts, figures, pictures and witness testimony. She spent years meticulously researching her subject. I have just lived in the world, and I know, there is nothing inaccurate in what she said, such things happen all the time. Just google porn and women hanging.

  46. I really enjoyed reading Bidisha’s article. I, too, stopped reading books by men a long time ago. But I agree with Bidisha. Women really do love misogynist writing. The only women I know who read women’s writing and who are interested in women’s culture are radical feminists. Every time I talk to women… even women who identify as feminist, they all have long lists of male authors whom they read, usually all misogynist assholes, with one or 2 token women chucked in. It is very disheartening.

    I just can’t stomach male writing anymore. It bores me to tears if it doesn’t make me really fucking angry. Women’s writing, women’s creativity and culture is just so much richer than the shit we are served by men. How do we get other women to engage with women’s culture? And I mean real women’s culture. Not Burlesque or roller derby or beauty/fashion expos. It is a difficult question. Women value our culture and creativity so little.

  47. Thank you zeph. Anyone who thinks Dworkin was speaking in metaphor (or hyperbole) is really missing the point! These things are done to women, by men, in real life. It happens consistently across time and place. Dworkin was describing reality, and people think she was kidding? Or exaggerating for effect? She was neither kidding nor exaggerating. Wrap your head around the truth, A, if you dare.

  48. These things happen in porn ffs. Do we think the actors in porn are holograms? Shadow puppets? What?

  49. Just waiting for the standard response: but those woman are PAID TO DO THAT!!!!11!1 Ok, but that’s not what you said. You said it doesn’t happen.

  50. And it doesn’t JUST happen in porn.

    Baby steps, baby steps. If people can just wrap their minds around the horror of porn, and the LIE that “these things don’t really happen” by realizing that porn is real, and that men PAY WOMEN to do exact the things people say is NEVER done we might eventually get somewhere. Maybe…

  51. hi allecto, Bidisha is cool isn’t she,
    “How do we get other women to engage with women’s culture?

    Like you men’s writing either bores me or makes me angry, whether it’s a book about society/science or fiction.

    I got about halfway through Christian Tsiolkas’s “THe Slap” (which I only picked up because he was hailed as a genius) and now it lies gathering mould in the garage. What a load of misogynistic codswallop. Especially his (boringly predictable) patriarchal horror of extended breastfeeding.
    I read it just after I’d finished reading Emma Donoghue’s Room, which actually takes the piss out of patriarchal society’s preoccupation with breastfeeding and so to go from that on to reading The Slap was like reading a parody: as though Tsiolkas had included every misogynistic sweeping statement possible in order to parody himself and society.
    Sadly, he was serious.

    Men’s art= what a joke.

    A, Snuff movies exist and it’s almost always women who die, and *always* men who kill. What makes you think the things Dworkin described didn’t exist? When you can find much worse on google today in this “enlightened” age,

  52. Thank you so much for this thread. As a writer I have so many old and new issues around women’s writing. It is utterly inspiring to read such advanced thinking. You all point me to a whole field of women theorists and writers (like carolyn gage, above). I feel so responsible as a writer. I wonder if there is a feminist publishing house? Is there a radfem online literary journal? I haven’t found it yet. I have privately published an anthology of modern poetry – what about an anthology of radfem blog threads on a series of topics? Reading all this makes me want to get ta work!

    Women’s exclusion from writing is one of the biggest topics for me. The silencing of women (cutting out the tongue – glossectomy) is so clearly evidenced in publishing. One very complex thing about women writing is that this is topic has been adopted into the domain of academia. Professors with all the pressures of their jobs do most of the writing about it, and a great deal of the writing of it. One thing I see is that women’s writing as a topic for analysis and as a creative endeavor has to be wrested away from universities. Where I live, we have a big active Women’s Studies Department at our university, but the theory taught there is pretty much entirely socialist feminism or eco-feminism and especially post-modernist feminism (the homegrown academic co-option of feminism). Dworkin, MacKinnon, Joanna Russ, Daly – you won’t learn about them there. I bet this is true in most US universities.

    I was so glad to read discussion of Joanna Russ above, and women adopting pseudonyms. This is another very big concern of mine; brilliant feminist writers are found in science fiction, and they are being pushed under the rug, but they are too big to go there. I’m thinking of Octavia Butler, who wrote astounding theoretical gender-explorative novels, as well as many many others. James Tiptree Jr was the pseudonym of a powerful feminist writer named Alice Sheldon, writing in the 70’s. Some of her short stories, like “The Women that Men Don’t See”, and “Houston, Do You Read,” have changed my life. Feminist science fiction should be exploding with the need for exploration of gender themes and with these powerful precursors, yet at the conference I recently went to on feminist science fiction, the serious panel work was somewhat overshadowed by men attendees and funfem fans just there for a good time. I was sad to see less going on than I had hoped for. It removed my last excuse for not getting more active.

    Thanks again for talkign about these huge crucial things and providing an alternative to “academic” discussion of them.

    vliet

  53. Oops, I think it was the thread “On Feminist Writing” that discussed Russ and pseudonyms, sorry…

  54. Tiptree, rain did a whole post about sheldon. Check it out by clicking on rains gravatar in the authors widget, or search for sheldons name in the search box.

  55. Thank you very much, FCM, I’m going there right now.

  56. I just finished reading the Tiptree/Sheldon biography. About the best tip (no pun intended) all year from a radfem blog. I loved the book, and couldn’t put it down. Didn’t really know that much about science fiction outside of Russ and LeGuin. It is such a tragic story of lesbian oppression, and the suffering Alice Sheldon went through all her life. Just the agony of knowing you’re a lesbian, and somehow being unable to fully love women. A story of women born early in the 20th century, and how common is this story?

    A truly sad moment was when Joanna Russ actually came out as a lesbian, and wrote a kind of love letter to Sheldon after she had come out as a woman writing with a male pen name. The tragedy of what could have been, had she met Russ in person, which she never did.

    I can’t think of anything more horrifying than never having a true lesbian life, and living a false heterosexual marriage… the irony of it being a lesbian relationship would have made it harder for Alice to get published at all or read widely by the male Scifi gang!

  57. Yes, Sheila, not only did she have to pretend she was a man – she had to pretend she was a straight man! And what’s even more tragic to me is that when I read her work, knowing now who she really was, I can see how being a lesbian/woman writer was most responsible her greatness as a writer. It affected her style and her originality and her themes. Reading the excellent bio, followed by the anthology of short stories out there, was stunning. She broke so many bounds. We do have a number of great women writers from the past 30 years, but as this thread says, it’s like they have been respectfully guided to the dump, and now the dozers are insidiously shoveling dirt over them and trying to bury them for good. I just have to say one thing from “The Women Men Don’t See”;. In that story a couple of women run across some scary aliens on a trip where they have been thrown together with 2 men, and to the horror of the men, beg the aliens to take them to their planet, no questions asked, just to get away from men. One of the men, horrified, says, but they’re aliens? And the woman says absently, “No problem, I’ve lived with them for years.” Something like that. Anyway, so much works better for me these days when I just go about my life thinking that us humans (women) have been colonized by aliens, that’s what’s going on. So much that mystifies us, horrifies us, is so illogical and unpredictable, makes sense when you just say , well of course, they’re not at all human, no sense trying to figure them out…

    Thanks for listening to my rant and I’m so glad you were affected by Sheldon’s life too,,
    vliet

  58. Hi tiptree, thanks for your wonderful comments. Now I see where your username comes from!

    I especially like this piece of advice:

    “So much that mystifies us, horrifies us, is so illogical and unpredictable, makes sense when you just say , well of course, they’re not at all human, no sense trying to figure them out…”

    🙂

  59. Thanks, Cherryblossom, your essay was really powerful. “We need no longer buy men’s books, or take anything they say seriously.” What a great statement. It is true! Women buy more books than men. Seeing the misogynistic BS is just a matter of education – then it floods in. The famous “women will buy books by both men and women, men only buy books by men” is very much under attack. Actually, women have not been reading the ghettoized women’s books easily available to them, but they are increasingly reading the free work of women. To my shame, I have also pandered to the system to get my work published. No more. It’s immoral and not as necessary any more.

  60. reading the free work of women…you mean radfem blogs? 🙂

  61. FCM: BINGO! 😀

  62. That for sure, FCM. It is the freest, the most exploratory, the vanguard, the fiercest!

  63. tiptree2– just an amazing last post. I really love your take on all of this, and now I want to read Alice Bradley’s anthology — what is the title, since I just finished the biography yesterday. I think it is a very valid point to see how the women wanted to flee the men and leave with the aliens…”The Women Men Don’t See” because if you start to think of men as less than human, and everything they do these days seems to point in this direction, the world changes. The news, the violence, the rape, the deadness… all of this in such sharp contrast to the very vibrance of women worldwide, and all that we are accomplishing. All that we have changed, and yet, do men ever change? And it really seems as if they have less and less of a place in the world, and that they have no idea of what to change. Women have a clear direction, men have nothing.

    Anyway, can’t wait to read Tiptree’s short stories now. I know that biography is really going to haunt me for weeks. It is the most tragic story of a lesbian writer I have ever read I think… tragic on so many levels, because she did have a chance to see the rise of lesbian feminism, she did know Joanna Russ, and yet, it still was too late for her. She couldn’t make it to the promised land, and I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of women all over the world have faced this very same situation, only they didn’t have the wealth and privilege that Tiptree did. Still, the millions of women across the centuries, the lesbians forced into marriages to men, the lost youth, the lost selves, the lonliness and lack of community, or ever the chance to meet all the lesbian women who have such a powerful force about them, a kind of freedom that is absent in hetland. When two lesbians talk, it is powerful beyond all imagination… somehow the slavery of hetland makes this all clearer each day.

    I hope that lesbian nation goes far and wide, so that someday, no lesbian will ever have to marry a man again, or ever have sex with a man… and I know we can create enough places where no woman need to cower in het conformity and all its horror.

  64. Hi, Sheila, The Tiptree anthology is “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever”, Tachyon Pubs. 2004.

    I know there are so many stories like this, but…Olivia Butler always wrote under her own name. She is also a bounds-breaker and brilliant scifi writer from the 80’s and 90’s. You read her Dawn Trilogy and get a deep deep creepy feeling of what it is like to be a defeated colonized person. The aliens need you to reproduce, and they are superior in manipulation of nature and technology. So they stop you from reproducing with your own species and try to addict you to them. If you do what they say, they can be very nice. Your children are monsters, with tentacles. You are impregnated whether you like it or not, and the men humans become sterile and helpless. What kills about a story like this is that it’s double-pronged (no pun intended, haha!). Butler was African-American, so at first I took it as a “slave narrative” fiction piece and felt the horror of Black slavery so strongly, from the inside, because she is so damn good. Then with even more horror it dawned on me that she was describing the relations of women and men, from another aspect. So I felt it all over again that way.

    Finally, I read about her and learned the little known fact that she was a lesbian, and not out. Her work is triple-pronged! She guarded her secret her whole life. Hardly anyone knew then or does now. I am not aware that she ever allowed herself to express her sexuality. But from all this torture came very important, ground-breaking work. Heartbreaking, isn’t it? And yet…I admire her so much.

  65. I love Parable of the Sower, one of my very favorite books ever. I read Butler’s other books, but many of them are very painful to read because they force us to feel what it is to be enslaved. Brilliant writer.

    Butler wasn’t open with strangers and the public about her sexuality because being an out lesbian in the years that she first started writing and then while getting the support and accolades from the very conservative sci-fi community was just not possible while continuing to work as a “mainstream” published writer. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t express it — she lived as a lesbian and of course her close friends and people she trusted knew the truth. Lesbians knew she was a lesbian. The trope has long been that lesbians live in some scary, dark place where they can’t be themselves; that narrative further marginalizes lesbians. Once it would have been more safe to do so, Butler continued guarding her private life — she was a very private person generally — as so many creative people do to protect their creative space and process. While she wasn’t open about her lesbianism to the public, she was a very out and proud feminist, she often spoke of how her feminism shaped her work and her ideas.

  66. I’ve always wanted to go to WisCon, the feminist sci-fi convention. They give out the James Tiptree Jr. awards (and have since 1991). I wish I’d gone in the feminist heyday of the conference; sadly like so much else that is “feminist” it has been waylaid at times by trans nation. But I think recently some folks have been trying to wrest it back to being truly feminist. Anyone ever been?

  67. Hi, Sheila, The Tiptree anthology is “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever”, Tachyon Pubs. 2004.

    I know there are so many stories like this, but…Olivia Butler always wrote under her own name. She is also a bounds-breaker and brilliant scifi writer from the 80’s and 90’s. You read her Dawn Trilogy and get a deep deep creepy feeling of what it is like to be a defeated colonized person. The aliens need you to reproduce, and they are superior in manipulation of nature and technology. So they stop you from reproducing with your own species and try to addict you to them. If you do what they say, they can be very nice. Your children are monsters, with tentacles. You are impregnated whether you like it or not, and the men humans become sterile and helpless. What kills about a story like this is that it’s double-pronged (no pun intended, haha!). Butler was African-American, so at first I took it as a “slave narrative” fiction piece and felt the horror of Black slavery so strongly, from the inside, because she is so damn good. Then with even more horror it dawned on me that she was describing the relations of women and men, from another aspect. So I felt it all over again that way.

    Finally, I read about her and learned the little known fact that she was a lesbian, and not out. Her work is triple-pronged! She guarded her secret her whole life. Hardly anyone knew then or does now. I am not aware that she ever allowed herself to express her sexuality. But from all this torture came very important, ground-breaking work. Heartbreaking, isn’t it? And yet…I admire her so much.

  68. Hi, Noanodyne, it was good to hear that Butler did have a private life where she could be herself. I only know about her from books – and you mentioned Wiscon – I went for the first time to Madison at the end of May, not really knowing what to expect. There was a terrific panel on Olivia Butler among many other interesting presentations. I enjoyed the conference as a whole and may go back. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I was hoping also for a Womanspace, though, and that was not the case; there were men on all the panels I went to and men everywhere, asking most of the questions and just generally throwing their weight around. But the depth of the field of women science fiction writers was fully revealed to me and it was breathtaking. There is some invisibility problem here because they are often lost in the scifi malestream and not emphasized enough in feminist literary thought, I feel. Yet – and I’m finally getting back to the question of women’s culture – it is in this field (along with blogs like this) that a vision of women’s culture, women’s real psychology, a world without men, can be boldly explored. What Wiscon would be like if men were kept out — wow! Many more feminist scifi writers would arise, I believe, and the field would become commanding. And we could use the conference model to do all this exploring in other areas of feminist knowledge and strategies. But, again, as we all know, we are having to expend huge amounts of energy, it seems, to fight the lethal co-optation that keeps preventing us from meeting as women. The SCUM Conference coming up in Perth sounds so great – it starts with Women Only for one thing. Anyway, I’ll be quiet now. Sorry, it just feels so good to open my mouth and speak!

  69. This may be of interest. It’s a site for feminist and lesbian literature. It lists presses and independent bookstores.

    http://www.litwomen.org/

  70. Thanks for describing your experience at WisCon, tiptree2, good to know. Very sad to hear that men are dominating there. Yes, how wonderful it would be to have those experiences free of men. That’s why I always bring up MichFest, it’s one of the only places that is supposed to be male-free and it IS incredible because of that — women take up the space, they stretch out and try new things and talk with each other and let down their guard and fly free in that kind of space. We really do need to take that model, combine it with others (as you say, conferences, plus workshops, other cultural events, etc.), and demand male-free spaces again!

    No need to be silent, tiptree, this is women’s land 😉

  71. Thanks, Katie S, for that site, I’ll check it out. And Noanodyne, MichFest is in my future, I have decided…and Carolyn Gage is a very serious and engaging and together art critic. Thanks for that article about her painting of The Prodigal Son..

  72. I clicked that link and it was inoperative for some reason. Here is a list of feminist and lesbian publishers:

    http://www.litwomen.org/WIP/publist.html

    Here is a list of feminist and lesbian bookstores (some may be LGBTQ now)

    http://www.litwomen.org/WIP/stores.html

  73. Your first link worked for me katie.

  74. A very close friend of mine is pregnant and overdue at the moment. She has invested a lot of money into flying a midwife to her home in order to help her deliver the baby; but if it doesn’t come soon she may have to have a C-section as her previous child was delivered by C-section, therefore she cannot be induced. ( Contrary to what the doctors tell you, here is a high correlation between C-section and maternal death rate)

    Anyway, yesterday I wanted to pray for her or just *do* something, in a spiritual sense. I wanted to wish for her baby to hurry up. I had no idea what to do.
    I don’t believe in God.
    So I packed some candles and incense in a bag (Not original, I know, but I was making it up as I went along) and took my kids to a river in a forest. I felt I had to be next to a river, not a pond or any place where the water could not escape. It had to flow from and to somewhere. And it definitely had to be water. The sea would have been okay, but I wanted the trees there too. These ideas just came to me.
    Well… it was okay.. I didn’t really know what to do when I got to the spot I chose, so I just lit the candles and listened to the water.
    I realize now that I should have taken some words with me… but there is no cultural history available to provide me with any. I should have researched but I didn’t want the moment to turn into something pretentious. So I just waited, and then went home.

    I took three things away from this experience:
    It was not the spiritual and calm moment I was hoping to create. There were a few men about… some gardener or other and someone walking their dog. I chose the wrong location. It should have been wilder, much wilder… I felt apprehensive.. as though someone would accost me or accuse me of being ridiculous for burning candles next to a river… as though one of the men would tell me off, using some trumped up excuse such as worrying I might cause a fire…even though the candles were on rocks practically *in* the river and the air was humid and damp so no, there would not have been a fire. But Man-Logic and their desire to control women is a more valid currency than common-sense. My apprehension turned into a shiver of fear. I felt frightened, almost, at the thought of being caught.. a woman alone by a river, lighting candles.. How ridiculous… how *insane*
    I felt the weight of all the men against me. Their anger at me for defying the only outlets they provide for spirituality…and for *creating* *my* *own* ceremony, completely independent of and separate to men.

    The second thing I took away from it was, even though it was not as peaceful and powerful as I’d hoped it would be.. I felt women’s world expand a little. I was not at a church.. nature is women’s church.. I was not looking to men for any guidance. I was rejecting them.. So I felt women’s world expand, and I felt men’s world *shrink* a little, but in a very significant way.

    And thirdly, I have a feeling my children will remember it…their mother sitting by a river one day, hoping and wishing for something, asking nature to help another mother deliver her baby safely. I have a feeling they will compare it to the dryasdust churches which are supposed to represent spiritual outlets– and find them wanting.

  75. Cherry, your story moved me. What you did seems brave, because creating a ceremony out of our brains and our resources is difficult. Also, we will be judged by the men around us who will try and take it away and send us their disapprobation because it doesn’t fit in their traditional mold and thus they cannot control it. I also love that your children were there– they were brought into the world safely, and now you ask the same for your friends’ child.

    We need more women involved in these rituals that we create. Do you have any IRL women friends who might want to participate next time?

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  76. Cherry, that is a moving description. Women need to reclaim the natural world for ourselves. Even though there were barriers, you did it, you followed your instincts. I hope it works out for your friend.

  77. THanks Smash, and KatieS

    Yes, I will have to invite another woman next time. As I left the river I pictured a group of women sitting there lighting candles.. Random male passers-by would not have said anything; lone men do not approach women in groups. They are intimidated by the energy.
    And in the image I had, the women were laughing and chatting. Very relaxed.
    Compare that to the stiff, staid atmosphere of male religions, where children have to shut up… (and end up sometimes bursting into nervous laughter because the expected etiquette is too stricts for any child to follow)

  78. Cherry, I posted concurrently with Smash, and nearly said something about doing this together with a group of women, and when I read her post was glad she’d said it. You, too. So we are on the same wavelength. [Lights an online candle here] 🙂

  79. I don’t think you should assume anything about the women who write at the HUB, or the women you see at the supermarket check-out, or the academic women who write books, or the lone women you pass walking home late at night… or any women at all. Because any one of them could have been subjected to male violence, or might be subjected to male violence right now in their current life situation, while putting on happy smiles to hide the shame or the fear– for no reason other than because they are female.

    There is no “them and us”.

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