Sexual Politics (Part I)

by cherryblossomlife

 I’ve decided to kick start the New Year with a three-part review of the mother of all radical feminist works : Sexual Politics by Kate Millet.

When I first read this book I knew I had found the work of a true intellectual; no pretensions, just genius. The majority of the non-feminist Great Works of political or literary theory I’d read up until then were suddenly revealed as fakes. Later, I would enjoy the work of other radical women, but most of them acknowledge Sexual Politics as being influential, if not foundational, to their own writing.

Kate Millet, the woman who invented a solid, working definition of the term “patriarchy”, was living in Japan when the “theory of sexual politics” came to her. She confessed her newly-minted idea to her lover, a Japanese man she would later marry, and an American pal who had dropped by for the evening for drinks. The American “laughed his head off”, so did the Japanese. Armed with this encouragement, she decided that it would become the topic of her PhD thesis.

I can see why living in Japan would foster such clarity of thought when it comes to analyzing the power structures of society. Because when you are transplanted from your own culture into another, you are forced to look at society with fresh eyes. Japanese society reads like a parody of patriarchy to me. That all the actresses and actors are merely playing parts couldn’t be clearer. I am sure that this is how Millet felt when she looked around at the gendered interactions between the sexes.

No feminist bible exists, because radical women do not need dogma in order to understand the world, but if it did it would be Sexual Politics (alongside Gyn/Ecology by Daly). And yet despite (or perhaps because of) its importance, Millet’s work was put through the same kind of humiliating political censorship that many revolutionaries are forced to face. Her book was out of print for seven years and try as she might, she could not find anyone to republish it. The field of feminist texts were dominated by professors of feminism who selected one another’s secondary sources for university courses, rather than Sexual Politics, which was a primary source. In other words, the theory, the very concept they were teaching, was invented by Millet–the author they had rejected and spurned.

I’ll attempt to tackle an analysis, or even a summary, of Sexual Politics in part II and III, though it’s an overwhelming task when you’re being struck with an epiphany in between every single sentence. So for now I’ll just leave you with a taster of one of the greatest minds of the last century. An extract from the introduction to the Illinois paperback:

In the thirty years since the composition of Sexual Politics and in the seven years it has been out of print, I have had more than enough time to consider what I might say in an introduction to a new edition. Three decades have brought a great many changes, a great second wave of feminist insurgency in this country and throughout the West, but also considerable backlash and reaction despite a steady wave of patriarchal reform through the United Nations responding to international feminism. That would surely be another book–in fact it has been thousands and must go on being so. But in 1970 my main interest was to restate and reestablish the fact of historical patriarchy in modern terms and for my generation, to see it as a controlling political institution built on status, temperament, and role, a socially conditioned belief system presenting itself as nature or necessity. Thirty years have focused this understanding but could not alter it significantly. Of course there are hindsight perceptions as well. Reading Gerda Lerner’s magnificent Creation of Patriarchy, published in 1986, I regretted not having had its fine prose and confident scholarship to guide me when I approached the subject. Differing with Lerner, I wish I had placed more emphasis on the discovery of paternity as the critical factor in establishing the groundwork for patriarchy’s triumph over earlier fertility culture, as Elizabeth Fischer does. This great early scientific discovery, a hunch I shared with friends in discussion but theorists still do not emphasize, has struck me more and more over the years as the cause of what Engels called “the great historical defeat of woman”–the creation of patriarchy. Engels attributed it to the introduction of monogamy. And of course without monogamy and the ownership and sequestration of women, paternity is hard to ascertain. But in a free sexual culture only maternity is evident: the infant’s head in the birth canal is visible proof of parenthood, whereas a chance encounter among how many others nine months earlier can hardly establish fatherhood and all that came with it in the ownership of persons (women, children, and slaves), private property, and the state. In Engel’s Victorian imagination, itself a product of exploitative patriarchal sexual practices, sexuality was so odious to women that he reasoned they would prefer ownership by one man rather than “use” by some communal horde. All this implies the existence of an onerous and coercive sexuality instead of a free one: patriarchy, in fact. But before the establishment of patriarchy through the discovery of paternity, sexual intercourse might have had a very different meaning, a pleasure quite removed from consequences.

If paternity was not clear until the example of animal husbandry, with its use of breeding pens and sequestration, made the discovery of human paternity possible through analogy, the economic potential and social control over human birth and issue were not available to human males. Knowledge of paternity is the key; until its discovery, the religious and monetary uses of the phallus and the seed were also not available. The discovery once made, patriarchy could and did invalidate all female participation in the spiritual creation of life, nominate the female as a mere vessel in which the magic seed grew, invent male gods who gave birth alone to Adam or Athena, and begin the long subordination of women in every avenue of human experience and civilization–even to its symbols. The ovum was not discovered until the nineteenth century, and it appears not to have had much social or political significance.

If the biological discovery of paternity had monumental ramifications for human social organization at the onset of patriarchy, today, when that institution is under attack and perhaps about to be reformed out of existence, other biological discoveries have, perhaps even fortuitously, come into being. In vitro fertilization, cloning, and surrogate motherhood–the products of an essentially masculine science–have made human reproduction subject to human manipulation as it has never been previously. It is in the interpretation of scientific knowledge that power lies, and the social consequences of these discoveries are still unclear, but control over them is in the hands of a male scientific establishment increasingly driven by corporate profit and Western class interests. Why not wombs rented from the poor for the rich? As amniocentesis has made it possible to choose boy infants over girls, many have done so. The consequences of knowledge as power may be staggering; the discovery of paternity need not have had any social or political effect at all, yet it came to shape the iron form of human society in the entire historical period. What uses may be made of the new biology, by whom, and for what ends?

Another perception that hindsight might have emphasized is the role of force in patriarchy. When I finished Sexual Politics in 1970, feminists were still so intent on a reasonable civil rights argument that it seemed almost “shrill” to look very far into domestic violence and rape, which had always been presented as “aberrant” behaviour. Only later did we become aware that there was a normative element in patriarchal violence, still later we began to understand the depth of worldwide poverty among women, even the widespread malnourishment of female children. The brutality visited upon female adolescents that I studied in The Basement was too shocking for me to write about; although I already knew the story of Sylvia Litkins, it was fourteen years before I could put it on paper. And the explosion of state violence within patriarchy that I studied in The Politics of Cruelty took another ten years to understand.

Patriarchy is “in trouble” worldwide; institutions in trouble get tough. Vicious. Patriarchal powers still have the military and financial means. Patriarchy is not only male domination of females but also a militaristic hierarchy among males. Many of its concessions in the modern period–a universal franchise and representative democracy, rules of war or international law, constitutional and civil rights, individual rights, and human rights–have been cancelled during this century in the breathtaking creation of concentration camps and gulags, the reintroduction of torture on a wide scale, massacres and genocide, and the use of rape or starvation as policy. The scramble of greed represented to us as Darwinian necessity through the “global market” has undermined world labour and the integrity of trade, manufacture, and even medicine. Human organs are for sale, and the Chinese state can time its executions exactly to provide vital organs freshly air-expressed for Western hospitals.

Fundamentalist Christianity constantly thwarts feminism, and fundamentalist Islam has built its entire political programme on a new subjection of women. Dictatorships return again and again to a more virulent patriarchy. The length of patriarchy is its greatest strength, its seeming permanence; its pretensions to a divine or natural base have been repeatedly served by religion, pseudo-science, or state ambition. Its dangers and oppression are not easily done away with. But surely the very future of freedom requires it–not only for women but for humanity itself.

–Kate Millett, 2000.


74 Responses to “Sexual Politics (Part I)”

  1. Thanks for this. It is so good to read Kate Millet’s take on her book in 2000. Refreshing to say the least. I agree that SP is an extraordinary book absolutely filled with insight. I read The Politics of Cruelty sometime in the last decade – and it should be a bestseller. But of course by then, Kate Millet had been labelled a loony! Isn’t that the fate of most women who are visionary.

  2. Thank you so much for bringing the awareness of Kate Millett’s genius, CherryBlossomLife! Your continuing analysis will be very welcome.

    If I recall another of Millett’s book titles correctly, she wrote “Going to Iran” (and her partner provided photos). This non-fiction of theirs moved me to awareness of how powerful women in Iran had been in seeking freedom decades ago (side by side with men who accorded the women spiritual leadership, then the “pragmatic” political capitulation). From all Millett conveyed in that one book, the ensuing years in that part of the world have been “oh, duh” as to their mainstream politics and the warring energies.

    Tonight I’m contemplating a sense, in the new year, of renewed spiritual practice because fighting in the material realm of politics just doesn’t seem to change lived realities toward the greater love, goodness, joy, creativity that we ought to be able to experience as birthright of be-ing.

    The radical feminist philosophy gives me the best handle on all that’s wrong in the material global scene seeking to usurp divine Love (including the goodness and beauty of Nature, all of what Mary Daly calls the “background”, without trying to be specifically thealogical). It fascinates me that Mary Daly was a university professor in Boston, an academic hub that spawned Mary Baker Eddy’s metaphysics in the late 19th century, also in Boston where her church had a huge influence on spiritual thought. The “background” of Daly reminds me of the “absolute” of Eddy, but each woman certainly filtered her spiritual metaphysics through different philosophical lenses. (And few women in the late 19th century were prepared to give up organized Christianity entirely even as they liberalized and gave it a Mother-God face, metaphysically healing the sick in large part to save women from the oppressions of 19th century gynecology).

    This reply is getting off the point of Kate Millett. Or is it? She has evolved considerably (from an op-ed I read a few years ago) in what she thinks is effective, or not, in changing society and freeing women. But her analysis of sexual politics is still spot on.

  3. Love this post and have always loved Millet. The book that made me a feminist, that and learning mother’s milk was full of DDT. I was pregnant at the time. Will have to get this edition to read the new intro, I’ve been thinking a lot myself about the discovery of male contribution to birth as the beginning of the accumulation syndrome we suffer so from. What a joke the male inflation of their role in birth and when you look at art you realize birth has been non-existent as a subject. Lot of Madonna/bambino but no birth only in “primitive art” until Judy Chicago and when you see her work, and it isn’t all that easy to do, you see the power of it and why they have hidden it from us. It tears apart their silly vessel narrative. But we need to understand and claim this power. Metaphysically too philosophy has always focussed on death what about birth?

  4. I never read the whole book, just bits of it. Also I’ve read reviews and discussed Millet’s work with womyn who did read it back in the late 70s-early 80s I remember coming across the title and just those 2 words together hit me with so much force as a young feminist then. The reviews and the words of those I knew who did read it, confirmed all I could imagine/envision from those 2 paired words–and of course, illuminated it further. Maybe it’s time I did read the whole work…

    Anyway, can’t wait to see your parts II and III, after this taste of what is to come.

  5. Ha! Great post! I hope it will allow many women to discover what she wrote. It’s really important to diffuse key radfem texts, they continue to spark lights. It feeds the first anger and helps to channel it by putting words on the system.

    She was definitely a visionary. I really admire all these women at the time who had the courage to shout things out bluntly, no watering down of the message or “but men suffer too”, to pin things down as they were and to trust their knowledge and their view of the world. They didn’t have as many foresisters as we do now, they had to pave the way. I guess the advantage of having all these books now is that it makes us feel less lonely, less crazy about what we know and see.

  6. Had difficulty finding a publisher? Not surprising. Who knows how many unknown radfem works are out there, but thanks to censorship we’ll never know. All that potentially liberatory knowledge, lost. I really wished I had known about this book ages ago. A woman can never read “too much” radfem literature.

  7. Who is the person called Pagllia who is quoted as saying that ‘Feminism went into decline when Millet published Sexual Politics.

    Millet was the first Rad fem text I read and it still remains top of my list with Daly and Dworkin……brilliant and love the fact we are re-spinning our womon here…thank you Cherryblossom

  8. Yes, Daly and Dworkin: both amazing. BUt Millet preceded them, and I noticed that Daly references her quite a bit in her books.

  9. Oooo, Kate Millett, My favorite quote comes from this book: “It is interesting that many women do not recognize themselves as discriminated against; no better proof could be found of the totality of their conditioning.”

    @ybawife – are you referring Camille Paglia? A misogynist, anti-feminist, patriarchy-loving jackass and MRA advocate who proclaims herself to be a feminist?

  10. Yes, Lucknkl, that’s the person……such vitriol against womon from her oppressed mouth….I bet she never even read Millets work never mind have the right to opine…..such is the ‘state of womonhood’ amongst those who have benefitted the most from1st & 2nd wave….

  11. Has Sexual Politics been published recently , I have an old copy but would like a more recent edition if availabel .
    If not can we not start a campaign for it to be re-published by some of the few, feminist publishers..or at least the so called lefty press……?

  12. Thanks for that, Cherry!

    I’m working up a personal canon of radical feminist writers from the Second Wave on…so far, I think the the following are documents that have become “classics” because of their revolutionary inspiration, their brilliant analysis, or their creative explication of the situation:

    Here’s what I have so far:

    1. The Female Eunuch, Greer
    2. Sexual Politics, Millett
    3. The Second Sex, de Beauvoir
    4. Gyn/Ecology, Daly
    5. Quintessence, Daly
    6. The SCUM Manifesto, Solanis
    7.Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, MacKinnon
    8. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, Tiptree Jr.
    9. Lilith’s Brood, Butler
    10. The Female Man, Joanna Russ
    11. The Left Hand of Darkness, LeGuin

    The last 4 are scifi..that’s a special like of mine…

    I’d be curious to hear other people’s “classics” that I may have missed, or comments on this list. There are many wonderful scientific and litcrit books out there too. Maybe Virginia Woolf should be on it, but she was pre-Second Wave, a unique voice between waves, I guess you might say.

    Millett was right at the forefront. I remember the stir when her book came out. It felt to me like an amazing revolutionary extension of the Civil Rights Movement. Her analysis was based on literary models to a great extent. It’s interesting to me that so much of feminist theory has come from professors analyzing great works of literature.

    As for Paglia, I suppose I think of her as an academic critic of feminism with a strong sex-poz focus. Wasn’t she most interested in making sure we didn’t forget men for one second? I don’t think of her as woman-centered.

  13. Paglia is just another example of the male/mainstream dubbing anti-feminists as “feminist scholars”. She even defended the Virginia Tech shooter, saying his frustration was the result of female students not making themselves more sexually available and being “cock-teases”.

  14. ybawife, yes the intro I quoted above was from the most recent republication.

    tiptree, I actually also think The Feminine Mystique was quite visionary for its time. She came before Millett. Friedan’s work was published in 1963! She was a housewife I think ,who made trips to the library every single day for years to painstakingly gather data.
    I especially like the way she rips apart Freud, she was one of the first (the first?) to do so. And the way she analyzes consumerism. I’ll never forget her describing the interview she carried out with a marketing man, going to his house and finding that he had volumes upon volumes of papers documenting interviews with women, which had been taken in order to learn what makes us tick so that we can be marketed to more efficiently. For some reason he let her browse them. THis is relevant to radical feminism because of course without women’s consumerism every single economy in the world would collapse! Friedan pointed this out.

    But as you say, it seems that Sexual Politics caused the second wave revolution.
    Knowing the chronology of the writers is important. Greer’s The WHole Woman is better than The Female Eunuch, but couldn’t have been written without the latter. Would Daly have seen the value of a room of her own without Woolf? Perhaps Millett couldn’t have done it if Friedan hadn’t and so forth.

  15. Yes, Cherry, for sure. I missed that one due to age and by 1970 so much of what Friedan pointed out seemed self-evident that it seemed downright conservative to me. Of course I was wrong. Friedan, Greer, Millet, and Beauvoir broke new ground in every page and that is brave difficult work.

  16. I’m curious to know what radfems think of John Mills. Bearing in mind that the majority of men need their wives to get their work done (while stealing the ideas of their wives), it’s quite impressive to think that he wrote what he did. Millett mentions him, saying that while it’s obvious his work was influenced by a female psychology, she believes it was authentically his.

  17. There’s a flaw in Mill’s thinking, at some point, which makes his theory circular and limited (not really surprising, but still, he was progressive for his time). I studied him, but I can’t remember what it was this flaw. I can dig into my courses if you like. Wollstonecraft criticised him (a contomporary if I remember well), and Carole Pateman (who spent her career criticising liberalism and liberal contract theory from a radfem perspective, from Hobbes to Rawls).

    As to Beauvoir, it’s a pity she’s the only feminist from France mentioned. She came early and her work is really important, but I couldn’t finish her book because you can feel the painful internalised misogyny throughout her writing, which I guess must be because she hanged around with Sartre for too long (a pile of misogynist sh** that dude is, saying men are transcendance and women immanence, which is straight into the rape ideology that then inspired the sh**load of Foucault, Lacan and Derrida, all them inspired by Freud and women-as-castrated-men ideology).

    Second Wave radfems from France are Christine Delphy, Colette Guillaumin, Nicole-Claude-Mathieu, Monique Wittig, Michèle Causse, and an italian radfem but translated in French, Paola Tabet, which I really recommend. Some of their works are translated in English.

  18. Thanks witchwind! That answered all my questions. And yes, I couldn’t finish The Second Sex for exactly the same reason! While revolutionary *for* *its* *time* it’s painful to read because of the internalized misogyny. Whereas I didn’T get that feeling at all with Woolf, who came much earlier. Or with Friedan.But I do need to read it to the end bearing in mind Beauvoir was a product of her time.

  19. “men are transcendance and women immanence” To me, this is the fundamental separation leading into identification of ‘difference’ and so to discrimination. It’s the ‘mind over matter’ idea that spawned patriarchy in the first place. First, with men’s dominance of womyn and all deemed ‘other’ (any deemed insufficiently possessed of ‘mind’, including ‘primitive cultures’), and man over nature itself. This transcendence/immanence dichotomy has been eating away at life ever since, and for me represents the essence of all that is sick in our culture (which imposes this sickness upon all of life). It is analysis without synthesis, the power of intellectual separation unbounded by any sense of our essence, existence and needs as embodied creatures; it’s the notion of separateness/individualism absent awareness of interconnection and interdependence within and without. It’s first the false and lethal separation of mind/matter (body), with the association of mind to ‘pure spirit’/god, and the assignment of mind as a specifically male-generated, male-owned trait. With that is the association of body to womyn/other/nature–all fair game for dominating because we are separated from and less-then mind (in patriarchy-think).

    I like your list, tiptree2–and would add:
    Sonia Johnson’s “Going Out of Our Minds: the Metaphysics of Liberation” (well, with a few reservations, but on the whole I think this work is fantastic);
    Daly’s “Pure Lust”, which is pure joy;
    Starhawk’s “Dreaming the Dark” for an analysis of power–power-over, power-within, power-sharing.

    I especially respect Starhawk’s work because as a witch she does pose ‘immanence of spirit’–but she poses it as existing in all of life and each of us. And with this she embraces the body–the physical, and nature–as thoroughly divine, instead of perpetuating the false and lethal mind-over-matter dichotomy that in my opinion threatens to prevent even feminist philosophy from being the power toward wholeness/healing that we need it to be. And she manages to do this without catering to genderized claptrap concerning ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’, even while posing the value of naming archetypal ‘godesses/gods’ as metaphors that can enliven people’s reclaiming their full (and fully embodied) powers. This she finesses quite beautifully, never suggesting that ‘goddesses’ are a) ‘feminine’ in the strictly maternal/vessel/sacrificial manner given by patriarchy’s gender assignment b) never suggesting that ‘gods’ are ‘masculine’ in the strictly aggressive/conquering/privileged manner of patriarchy. And Starhawk also never suggests that ‘gods’ and their archetypal powers are just for men and goddesses just for womyn–yet still bringing forward into the present the ferocity and rational intellect of goddesses and the compassionate and intuitive-mind aspects of gods from ancient (pre-patriarchal) times.

    I mention Starhawk in such depth here because I have not been reading much feminism in recent years, and I am new to feminist forums this past several weeks. And in some ways I am deeply impressed with feminist analysis, the growing body of feminist philosophy and (here, at least) the deepening rage against patriarchy prompting writings and actions to resist/dismantle it. I am also a little alarmed, honestly, because it seems to me that under the pressure of patriarchy’s academic institutions and its ever-more-pervasive dictation of what constitutes ‘rational analysis and philosophical rigor’, feminism has been drawn deeper into the mind-over-matter trap. For me, if feminism is to really help womyn and really end patriarchy, it must destroy that false dichotomy of mind and matter. It must seek re-integration of mind and body, people with nature–and must not give a good goddam whether or not men, or male-identified institutions, will give us ‘credibility’. In fact, we might expect more than the usual derision from that quarter in departing from strictly dictated menspeak in exploring life anew–ho hum, so what. One does not have to be a ‘biological essentialist’ to know that in separation of mind and matter is death, and seeking our wholeness is, in Mary Daly’s term, the only biophilic thing to do. If we love life, if we love womyn, we must love our bodies wholly with our minds–and more greatly empower our interconnection with all of embodied life. Philosophies and resistance-analyses are not life, they are only ABOUT life. And they are only so useful as they can prompt ACTION toward sane, whole living of everyday life. We live in our bodies, very much in relationship to the rest of embodied life.

    I add the caveat that I’m aware that a lot of contemporary ‘paganism’ and ‘goddess worship’ is a tired old reiteration of patriarchy. Starhawk’s “Dreaming the Dark” has nothing to do with any of that, however.

  20. So much great thinking and info in the comments above; thanks especially to Witchwind and Hari b for giving me some new reading directions today. The name of writer Monique Wittig springs out at me as someone I hear about over and over for her lesbian scifi novel Les Guerrilleres (sp?). It has influenced feminist scifi hugely but I just haven’t come across it and will have to make the effort. It’s about a future society of women warriors, I believe. I’m continually thinking up obvious plots for feminist scifi and detective stories that no one I can think of has written yet because the consequences of such writing would be fairly lethal.

    I admit I have not read Starhawk for the very reasons Hari mentions: the perception of New Age vagueness and superficiality. But after that impassioned recommendation, I will!

    Beauvoir will always be dear to my heart. I think she went as far as she could for her period and place. She advised very simply, “Don’t marry; work.” She took the route of becoming a European intellectual who achieved real respect and had to be taken seriously, and sacrificed children and many other things for that goal. By not living with Sartre and Algren, always keeping her own place, she kept some freedom. There was a sort of route for women intellectuals of the Enlightenment to about the 1970s to become intellectuals; and the main feature was not to have children.

    Here’s a little poem I wrote about it:


    Akhmatova, Alcott, Austen,
    Bishop, Bowen, Brontes
    Dineson, Eliot, Glasgow
    Cather, Colette, Rossetti
    Sachs, Sappho, Sitwell
    Stevie Smith, Stein, Glaskell
    Hansberry, Hellman, Hurston
    P.D. James, Jewett, Lagerlof
    Lispector, McCuller, Mansfield
    Millay, Mistral, Marianne Moore
    Nin, Murasaki, Oates
    O’Connor, Parker, Porter
    Renault, Woolf

    Which came first
    No children or the decision
    to have no children?

    Heathcliff was Emily’s daughter
    the best representation we have
    of the true female imagination
    Insistent, tragic, tortured
    loyal, outlawed, doomed
    dark, sulky, magnificent

    bitter and cruel; yes, that also.

  21. thank you for the amazing comments on this thread!
    “DOn’t marry; work” is a good instruction for women, but having to forfeit children to get it, to me, makes her a victim, yes a victim, of patriarchy. Motherhood is severely punished, because they hate what we can do. For me, I always felt that if I chose one or the other they’d won.

  22. Hi, Cherry,

    Someday it will be very clear and recognized that the introduction of the birth control pill, permitting family planning, was the greatest event in feminist history. I came of age at that very moment, and will always be grateful.

  23. This in spite of its health risks. It was a beginning, not perfection.

  24. I’ve never used the pill and never really understood the concept of it (after reading the packet at the age of 15 and seeing the side-effects) until I became a radical feminist and realised women were being coerced into having sex without a condom. Having said that I did live in an area where you could just pop into the local clinic to get the morning after pill if the condom split. So yes, if you include the morning after pill it has certainly made life easier for women!!! Shame women (including myself) were/are unable to see that PIV is the problem!!

  25. Such nice comments!
    Thanks Hari B for sharing your review about Starhawk, and thoughts on transcendance/immanence.
    And thanks tiptree for sharing your poem 😀
    As much as I love everything I read from Monique Wittig, the only one thing I would warn against is her sometimes promoting the idea that lesbians aren’t women (sigh). It’s what caused the historic split in France between Christine Delphy (radical materialist feminist) and Wittig (Radical Lesbian), a problem that still isn’t solved today, unfortunately.

    As for the Anglophone radfems, I’d also add Sheila Jeffreys and Janice Raymond to my favourites.

    I’d heard about Starhawk too, but havn’t read her for the same reasons above either. I’ll keep what you said in my mind and try to read her as soon as I can!
    About transcendance immanence, it’s an interesting discussion (hope this is not off-topic, delete the comment if you feel so) I see it as the basic rape principle of patriarchy, which can apply to any relationship men have to women and the world. It’s the
    penetration vs. penetrated,
    conquerer vs. occupied,
    active vs. passive,
    subject vs. object (etc)
    > the process of othering, alienating, isolating, objectifying, fragmenting/splitting and eventually raping/consuming/appropriating/killing which applies to all patriarchal processes and copy exactly the same mechanisms by which men affirm their power over women: rape and intercourse. The whole system men created is based on their ability to interact with everything as an object for rape & conquer – based on how they treat women – because that’s where they derive their male power from: rape. It’s their only way of affirming their illusion of male power and control.

  26. Oh these words ring so true for me! ” “DOn’t marry; work” is a good instruction for women, but having to forfeit children to get it, to me, makes her a victim, yes a victim, of patriarchy. Motherhood is severely punished, because they hate what we can do. For me, I always felt that if I chose one or the other they’d won.”

    See, I have always genuinely *enjoyed* children, and even as a young feminist wanted several. I know–sounds crazy, for anyone claiming to be a feminist. I once had a feminist friend who told me outright that if I had kids, I was NOT a feminist. I told her that a feminist makes her own choices, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. And this I did, having 6 children when and how I wished to, not always in the confines of ongoing relationship–because the decision was only mine.

    Of course, when I was younger, I really did not understand patriarchy…oy. This reminds me of when I was arrested in the 80s for practicing midwifery, and dealt with a lengthy court battle. I thought, early on, “oh, now I can see the institution, what it is, how it works.” By the end of things nearly 5 yrs later (and I ‘won’, but the actual loss is another story), I thought instead “Hmm, if the institution were an elephant, *maybe* I saw as much as it’s toe”. I finally understood how vast, powerful and pervasive patriarchy is, in the legal system. Same is true for being a mother. For a long time (even through the end of 2 marriages) I thought that it was a matter of having ‘feminist/egalitarian agreements’ with the men involved. Now, 33yrs since my first was born, I realize that I could barely even see the toe…until the foot, with all the weight of it’s massive body, had come perilously close to crushing me. I understood finally that my own dreams of family making free of patriarchy were wonderful but delusional, because of the enormity of patriarchy within and around all of us.

    Yes, motherhood is severely punished, in great part because men hate what we can do. And partly too because even the opportunity to share the love and joy of parenting is not enough since even men who want it, cannot find the way in. By the time they reach manhood, the warmth and joy they might seek in parenting is ever hounded/bounded by ‘masculinity imperatives’. Thus, mothers are hated not only for the power to bring forth life, but for the heart to love and enjoy her kids along with her vast energy and intelligence to manage kids along with work/other interests.

    Anyway…yes, motherhood is severely punished. And yes, to forfeit having children is another way patriarchy wins, another victimization of womyn –at least, for any womyn who might desire to have a child but does not because of how hard it is to do so as a feminist in patriarchy. It is impossible to choose freely.

    As for hormonal birth control–I can see how some say that the arrival of birth control pills was “the greatest event in feminist history.” And I could not go there again, after using it for one year and seeing the effects of it on my body and consciousness. Hormones are powerful mediators of consciousness and behavior. Even apart from their physical risks, in my opinion (as a midwife who has studied this from a biochemical as well as psychological standpoint), there is nothing that is so dangerous to womyn as hormonal birth control. Even apart from how it obscures the great danger of PIV to womyn’s minds/hearts, I believe their greater danger is in changing womyn’s consciousness at a biochemical level. Another big story there, too…in brief, what I see is that through chemical means (including anti-depressants and many other meds), patriarchal medicine has been working to kill womyn one way and another, to find more and more ways to erase us as womyn and make us into beings better suited to life inside patriarchy’s institutions, careers, etc. And most of which chemicals/procedures also have risks up to death. This makes hormonal birth control at LEAST as much a Great Event in Misogynist, Womyn-Controlling History, if not moreso than a great event in ‘feminist history’. We cannot forget that the story was written by men–male-dominated medicine whose fundamental philosophy of the body is mechanistic, it’s methods control-oriented, and whose real motives are definitely NOT to help make womyn freer. Well–freer only in the sense of making womyn more freely available to men and PIV, without consequence, and making us more adaptable to patriarchal capitalism’s terms (if pesky kids are not distracting us from slavery to work and consumerism).

    And hey, if we are better able to adapt to patriarchy’s institutions, if we have a better chance of ‘success’ inside those institutions by being childless (or only having 1-2 kids), then we will stop looking at how lethally harmful patriarchy is to human consciousness, to our health, and to all of life, in every way…right? Med-chemical answers to the ‘problems’ of fertility along with anxiety, depression, etc, are just another form of enchantment: another way we are persuaded through fine words, whose underlying trickiness/deception we don’t sense, to continue to accept the inevitability of partriarchy.

  27. HariB, OMG you were arrested for practicing midwifery!!! You’re my heroine. I searched high and low for a midwife here in Japan, after reading Inna May Gaskin’s book (and what an amazing woman she is), *managed* somehow to find one, and had a beautiful birth. She then left the city so when I had my second child I had to begin the search again and found that there was only *one* independant midwife remaining in this entire prefecture. LIke the last of the mohicans or something. THe second birth was also beautiful 🙂
    THe reason I will stop at two kids, is because I live in a patriarchy. Simple. My body can give birth easily (second baby was delivered within two hours from the first pain). So yes, having no children, or just two children conceals how oppressed women actually are. Having no children (or just a few) allows us to stay alive and function. I completely agree with you there HariB.
    How painful it is to realise that if I lived in a matriarchy, motherhood would have been so different.

    I also loved that poem tiptree.

  28. “How painful it is to realise that if I lived in a matriarchy, motherhood would have been so different.”

    Yes, yes, yes! Reading work like Marian Zimmer Bradley’s “Mists of Avalon” series, and other fiction posing societies wherein womyn’s reality was honored and mothers (and children) were fully nutured and respected, has made me ache to live in such a place.

    and thanks for your recognition of my midwifery work. In many places, it is hard to find a midwife. I still live in the same state where I fought midwifery law in the 80s….things are even worse now legally, and I must be very very cautious in helping womyn. I love the work! And hate the legal threat, which of course stems only from misogyny.

  29. Completely agree with you HariB about how the pill controls and poisons women’s body from the inside, disconnects women from their body and bodily feelings, and alters their conscience. I see it as the biggest hoax of the century, because not only it’s all the above + destructive to the body, but it gave women the impression of controlling their body and allowed men to reassert compulsory PIV, so drove women away from recognising the core of the problem. It’s a catastrophe; In developed countries around 60% of women aged 15-26 take the pill.

    We talk about the dangers of the medical-psychiatric male machine forcing hormones into people to give the delusion they’re changing sex: but 60% of young women are force-fed hormones daily in the delusion they have more control over their body.

  30. Tiptree, what a great idea to make a list of classics.
    This could be a post in itself.

    I love Andrea Dworkin’s “Letters from a War Zone”, “Life and Death” and “Right Wing Women”.
    Marilyn French’s “Beyond Power” has taught me more about our history than anything else. Her other three volumes
    starting with “From Eve to Dawn” are excellent. Of course, they were heavily edited by the publishers. And she wrote them while battling throat cancer!

    Phylis Chesler’s “Patriarchy” is excellent.
    I don’t always agree with what she writes about today, but I love her earlier work.
    “The Legacy of Baby M” and “Mothers on Trial” as well.

  31. Working isn’t any kind of solution for women, I’m afraid. The more patriarchal controls are on women, the less freedom we have to speak our truths. The more deliberately time wasting male centric bullshit we have to do in a day leaves us that much more drained and too busy to do anything that really matters, or that might help us or help women. Being afraid of losing what crumbs we have keeps us from being radical and being loud about it. And being dependent on men in the workplace, to sign our paychecks, to critique our work, to judge our competence, to NOT act like abusive assholes when they are exactly that at their rotten cores is just more dependence on men. We might not depend on one man, as if we would under marriage. Working women depend on many men for their livelihoods. We have to please men constantly. And since so many of them use porn, we all know what men find pleasing. It’s fucking awful to be in this position, and working women know this.

    The best thing that might happen to any of us would be to lose our jobs, or to only have to work part time or sporadically. If we banded together and took care of each other, not all of us would have to work in men’s world being controlled by men, or we wouldn’t all have to do this all the time. We would be free to write, to be activists, and to do other things. This is going to be our future, I think. The less patriarchal controls on us the better.

  32. Yes, FCM. Marriage=dependant on one man. Working woman= dependent on more than one man (boss and male colleagues). Marriage actually gives you more psychological space *in* *some* *ways* if you insist on a room of your own. 🙂 But it’s so horrendously oppressive in so many other ways.
    So yes, we’re back to women living together, working together, focusing on each other.
    Off topic, but what I’ve noticed is that in the “public” sphere there have always been areas where women have had autonomy, but those are the very areas that serve the patriarchy most. For example, in Japan, the Geisha houses were *owned* by women. Yes, women owning large properties, not through inheritence but through their “business acumen”! That’s quite something. And yet look what the purpose of training Geisha was. The modern version of this is say, the nail salon chain in my city. It’s hugely successful and is owned by a woman…she has umpteen locations across the prefecture… and yet, again, look at what she’s selling…

  33. @FCM

    The best thing that might happen to any of us would be to lose our jobs, or to only have to work part time or sporadically. If we banded together and took care of each other, not all of us would have to work in men’s world being controlled by men, or we wouldn’t all have to do this all the time. We would be free to write, to be activists, and to do other things. This is going to be our future, I think. The less patriarchal controls on us the better.

    First time poster here.

    I have seen this idea posted in various iterations here but is there any concrete model that people are looking at?

    Banding together and taking care of each other is great, but would we be doing that under current systems or via something completely independent (separate state, etc.)?

  34. Oh FCM, I think I’m in love! LOL, but totally seriously! You see, you have stated in clear unabashed terms what I have been moving more fully into for years now. Because I have seen it just as you describe–womyn working are even MORE under the thumb of patriarchy every day than just being married to one man. This is true even if they have a womyn boss, and work in a majority-womyn space–which the great majority do not–because business is all about patriarchy. Work and business was designed by it, is founded upon it’s lethal imperatives and toxic viewpoint, and as even the least-politically-or-feministically conscious can now see (due to Occupy), is literally owned by men who are la creme de la creme of patriarchy’s killing machine.

    At 55 now and nearing the end of my mothering years with but one teen left at home of 6, I can clearly identify the ‘happiest time of my life’: tho it had nothing to do with my youth then, it occurred between my age of 25-32. I was a single parent of 3 little ones, working only part time, only sometimes, and otherwise financially supported by food stamps and housing assistance. I was well-able to make this work, because I was happy living simply–had no interest whatever in attaining ‘financial success’ as patriarchy deems it, would not trade my precious time (and sanity) for the paltry rewards of property, material goods or ‘fashion’. And in the US at least, people throw away so much by way of fully-useful goods that it was quite easy to remain quite decently clothed, and have even more by way of household goods than necessary. I rarely dated during those years–watched too many other single moms suffer along with their kids from the desperation to have a man/dad (almost ANY would do) and the revolving door that entailed. I was thoroughly enjoying my children and we had a truly joyous, peaceful homelife together. I had plenty of time to myself due to their visitation with dad and a large community of other families wherein we swapped childcare freely. I did a lot of reading, thinking, writing, gardening, conversing, some community activism/volunteering. While I had men friends, most of my community was female and fairly feminist…to the point that one man I dated briefly complained that he felt he’d entered into a matriarchal community! Ha–I well knew that community was more strongly female than most, our presence/identity less-oppressed, more visible and vocal on female terms than usual, but still a long way from being dominant.

    Then I met husband # 2…oy. While not without it’s own joys, it was kind of all downhill from there! Over the years that followed, my struggle to reconcile my dreams of partnership in life-and-family making with a man, with my ever deepening feminism (and deepening awareness of and revulsion for patriarchy within and around me/husband), I have lived through a lot of warfare, wounding, rage and despair. This has not only been about the men (including mate #3), but also about misogynist control of birth and midwifery with legal and financial difficulties of that–also legal shit over custody/visitation in an adversarial, man-centric, womyn/child hating legal system. All was very much a part of my deepening awareness of the might and pervasiveness of patriarchy and it’s fully brutal ways of subsuming us all or killing us outright.

    As a womyn-identified womyn and midwife, I have been exposed to the same shit in most womyn’s lives–and could NOT see how womyn who worked (with or without kids or men) had it any better. In fact it has long seemed to me that as oppressed as womyn who work only in their homes can be, it seemed the ones suffering most were the career womyn. Yes– because of being surrounded by men and patriarchal imperatives. Coerced into assimilation, into buying those paltry rewards of ‘success’ in terms of status/respect/money that seemed to be obliterating them as womyn (and making many literally sick in body and mind). With all that in one’s face, how can one fail to be dis-membered utterly?

    Now I will do what I hate to do… quote a man, because I’m not aware of a womyn who said it. It was one of those important Native American chiefs in their last days. He was referencing how white culture was trying to force their assimilation, by Indian Schools teaching their young men such things as carpentry to enter white workforce. Remember, anthropologists have observed that in (patriarchally-named) ‘primitive cultures’, adults tended to work an average of only 20hrs a week for survival, and otherwise spent their time playing, making music/art/storytelling, dancing, making love, other ‘leisure pursuits’: This chief said “Young men who work, forget how to dream”. I read this in my 20s, and it struck such a bell in me. I saw it: when we spend so much time doing work divorced from the work of living and estranged from the natural world, distracted from self and life itself by obeying the imperative to trade our time for money to purchase what we need to live and gain ‘status’, we forget ourselves. We have no time to just dream….to willlingly, consciously dream ourselves, life, love…all that makes life truly joyful and worth living. We too often sleep the sleep of the exhausted and besieged, our dreams (if we remember any) too full of the very people and activities that are exhausing us, holding us under siege (all the while pyschology will tell us this is just a symptom, a mere symbol of personal neurosis/maladjustment…gah).

    FCM, I’m so with you on this. I just don’t know how womyn do it, this business of work inside patriarchy, and I don’t see how we will ever create another world without stepping away from that and into another way of living. I have dreamed… in my sleep, much during those happy years I named…and in my waking imaginings, of life beyond patriarchy. Of life where womyn are fully re-membered in self and community with our children. Where there is no clear line between ‘work’ and ‘life’, between ‘what we must do’ and ‘what we enjoy doing for it’s own sake’…where there is time enough to dream, love, dance, play, on our own terms and in full honoring of ourselves as womyn. I’ve dreamed this in joyful technicolor and fully-embodied knowing of it’s power, and waited for other womyn who could glimpse what I mean by it, and feel their own longing powerfully enough to move them toward it.

  35. Concrete model. I don’t know, how about the golden girls?

    This is not some bullshit futuristic never gonna happen solution. This we could do immediately. Women already do it, and we need to do it more. It’s been a long time coming and I am absolutely looking forward to this kind of real change for women. Men let the economy collapse, men made it happen. They can no longer be counted on to provide, or even to provide us with jobs so we can provide for ourselves, the facade that any of this was positive for women or could be counted on has been torn away. Unemployment is rampant for both women and men. A part time job or periods of not working at all is the reality for many women already, and I think we can do something with that. We already are. We need time to read, write, to organize and to do other things to benefit ourselves. Many of us never had time before but we have time now, for better or for worse. We absolutely need to use this to our advantage.

  36. cherryblossom–you know, from first seeing your screenname here, I wondered if you had connections with Japan…OT, but wanted to say it’s been interesting to discover that you do 🙂

    Anyway–I don’t think your comments about geisha houses, nail salons and the idea of womyn owned/operated businesses is OT at all. To me it is exactly the point: business is defined by patriarchy, by dominant-male imperatives. The ONLY so-called ‘choice’ womyn have in patriarchy to be successful in financial or status terms, is willing assimilation, willingness to profit from the exploitation of womyn and nature. You were precisely ON topic to name these things, IMO, in illustrating that fact. Thank you!

  37. FCM–yes and yes. It’s up to us, and now, many of us do have more time to think on it, and take action to save our own lives regardless of whether anyone else wants to stay enraptured by the toxic dream of capitalism under patriarchal rule.

    Fmudd–some of the womyn sci-fi writers have posed such models of womyn’s societies/economies/families. Ursula Leguin comes immediately to mind. There are others but while I’m great at remembering stories and characters, I’m terrible at recalling authors and titles.

  38. Yes to all of it Hari. Young women have time on their hands like they’ve never had before, whether they like it or not, if they aren’t working and aren’t having kids both. Older women are living long enough to see their free time return as well, as vliet pointed out in her recent guest post. This is all excellent, wonderful news, or it could be, if we kept each other safe and cared for. It is a big IF but it is an opportunity many of us have never seen before. And obviously, women taking care of each other will mean less coerced piv, a decreased supply of sex work, less homelessness and less general misery for women, even non activist women will benefit from that. It could turn out to be a disaster, of course bc its a scary dangerous thing that men have caused here w the economy, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster for women. It could be our chance to escape.

  39. Since disaster is busy forming all around us anyway and on a planetary scale, FCM, I don’t see how stepping away from the men’s world could possibly be any MORE disastrous! Or how it could be disastrous in any particularly new or more traumatic ways than we face daily.

    Lierre Keith and her male comrades who wrote Deep Green Resistance are also saying this same thing, in essence. She/they discuss it with respect to their movement to dismantle the grid and machinery of industrial civilization before eco-distaster becomes so profound as to close out survival not just for us but for the whole planet. That is, that things are in a state of increasing decay and disaster already, on every level of life for humans as well as the rest of life. I agree with their assessment, but not their strategy–which is all about warfare and refuses to embrace/include an equally important and balancing foundation of this work that lies in creation of new communities, food supplies, ways of living.

    However, I think it’s fine if men want to make war upon patriarchy in this way–in fact I think it’s only fitting (in so many ways) that the ones who created the killing machinery should also sacrifice their lives in dismantling it. It is so fitting that men (for Lierre’s thoughts within DGR are founded in Jenson’s and other mens’ thoughts) can only see this in terms of war.

    I won’t go there. I am a creator of life. Certainly, I would as readily kill any who threaten my own or community’s life as I would kill a carrot or deer for the same basic cause of preserving life. And I won’t become identified as a destroyer and murderer–I am a creator of life, sustaining vision and love, whose powers of ferocity are called upon only in service of life, sustaining vision and love.

    Now, womyn have not only the chance to become leaders in creation of a sane life worth living for ourselves, for the reasons of un–or-under-employment inside as you name, we also have more reasons every day to do so. We have been kept in thrall and enslavement to patriarchy for so long expressly *by* of our fear of disaster befalling us/children. That fear has been both real and imagined…has been seeded and nurtured within our hearts both by real violence and psychological taboo. I have not had to survive the level of physical violence that too many womyn have, but I have survived some of it. More important, I think, is that I have lived through my willful shattering of female-taboos in search of my own reality and some truth about life– with the death-sentence of ostracization that brings suicidal sorrow, rage, despair, loneliness, hopelessness…I am daily living beyond it (and survive means–to live beyond). I know there are other womyn like me, who much to our surprise did not die of our wounds or out-casting after all (which in the end was just as much our own recoil in revulsion as a casting-out by community)…and who are no longer the least bit confused about what patriarchy *is* or what it does to us and all of life. And who are no longer in doubt about our life-sustaining, life creating powers, our endless imagination and love to see us through.

    We have the time, and more and more of us see the reasons why…or at least can no longer see why to continue supporting this world of man’s creation, little as it nurtures anyone and much as it reeks of dis-ease. With further dis-enchantment and dis-engagement (even that simply forced by unemployment) occurring all the time, the ways and means cannot be far off. The drawing together of womyn, in ever-greater and more fiercely life-loving, self-honoring numbers, is surely upon us–and we are eminently capable of creating the ways and means. We will only be a ‘disaster’ to patriarchy, as we save our lives and perhaps, life on planet Earth–because we are the ones, I think, for so many different yet fully intertwined reasons, who will.

  40. FCM–by the way, I was so tickled by your reference to the Golden Girls! Yeah, baby 😀

  41. yes its notable how men think of revolution or even “peace” or peacekeeping or making peace in terms of war. everything they do is about war, and reacting, including attacking radical feminists for our beliefs (our “beliefs” that men are violent and/or dangerous to women and children, which is not a belief system actually, its just a demonstrable fact). they make our points for us. i agree that women have been living and surviving (and not surviving, and dying) within (and despite) a man-made disaster for a long time. this is just more of the same although it has hit a fever pitch IN SOME WAYS. middle class women have been criticized as being largely ineffectual feminists bc we have too much to lose, and value our crumbs too much and i think thats true. except for writers, perhaps, although im not sure about that. writers can be extremely effectual IMO.

    of course, the attacks only make us stronger. we only become more determined to survive, and to resist and to do this together. because its not anything most men would ever do, they cannot fathom that we would “recoil in horror” or even go within to contemplate all of this, and that we would continue forward in another way while completely ignoring them, but we do. they cannot fathom that us losing our jobs would only make us stronger, but that is because they have no idea what the hell we have been talking about this whole time. they cannot fathom or accept that men attacking us would prove us right, even though it obviously does. and they cannot fathom or accept that these attacks would tend to make us more determined in our righteousness (that men are dangerous and threaten and attack women and children all the time and that we need to find a way to live and BE without them) but it does. men really are complete dupes and violent, reactive morons, in every conceivable way.

  42. they also dont seem to get that NOT FOCUSING ON MEN and not wasting our time on them kind of precludes engaging them on any level, including going to “war” either with or against them. they seem not to believe us when we say we will not waste our time that way. welp, believe it or not, this is happening and will continue to happen. in general, radical feminists walk our talk WRT not spending our time and energies on men. believe it or not, we are serious about this and we are doing it.

  43. Wow, amazing conversation going on, it blows my mind! Have nothing to add, all I can say is THANKS 😀

  44. @Hari B

    — “some of the womyn sci-fi writers have posed such models of womyn’s societies/economies/families. Ursula Leguin comes immediately to mind. There are others but while I’m great at remembering stories and characters, I’m terrible at recalling authors and titles.”

    OK, I’d be really interested in getting something off the ground. The “Golden Girls” model is a yes and no. Yes, in that they did band together but no in that it really was (1) after they were much older and lived their lives within the patriarchal system and (2) they were still very much connected to the patriarchy and reacting to it.

    There’s all this talk but in the end it’s just frustrating in general that there is nothing serious actually happening.

  45. Ok fmudd. What do you propose? Please be specific. Thanks.

  46. @FCM why not start with what the homosexuals did with San Fransisco?

    An actual, physical location that is identified as womyn for womyn.

    It can be in any part of the world. The closest there is to a physical location that is for womyn is Sweden with certain feminist-friendly laws but still really nothing to smile at.

    Why can’t womyn start small and move to a physical location and claim that spot? Anywhere in the world, but it will be identified as womyn for womyn?

    It will be connected to patriarchy initially but as a local municipality develops so does a womyn centered environmentget created.

  47. And your suggestions are vague and based in the future, not in the present. No wonder you’re “frustrated.”

  48. @FCM

    It isn’t vague to claim a physical spot and grow from there. You want a spot right now? How about an area near Phoenix AZ. in the US?

    Land is cheap and accessible. Would not be too hard if people came together to pitch in to by a few acres right now to get started.

  49. FMudd, who are you? Interesting ideas. Tell us about yourself.

  50. THe problem with buying a plot of land is that it’s an individual solution, not a revolution.

    The title of this post is Sexual Politics, because radical feminism is rooted in political analysis and theory. Getting a group of women together on one piece of land probably goes under the banner of “withdrawing energy from men”, which definitely has its place.
    There are, however, some problems with this, the obvious one being that men are dangerous and will target these women for violence. So there are other, more effective and efficient ways of withdrawing energy from men, which I don’t want to go into now on a public forum.

    But if the majority of women in a particular society are still paralyzed by their patriarchal mindbindings then the separatism of a random few isn’t going to change anything.

    I suppose what I’m saying is, radical feminism is not an “I’m alright Jack” movement, it’s a social justice movement for ALL women.

  51. And I will just add that although radical feminism is rooted in politics it is also INCREDIBLY simple. Just look at what radical feminists are saying and it’s SO SIMPLE, and yet the mental gymnastics people go through in order not to get it is incredible.

    Par example:
    Fact: Women are more likely to be murdered by their husbands than a stranger.. Radfem analysis: Maybe marriage isn’t such a good idea for women after all.

    Fact: THe chromozomes that determine your sex are present in every single cell in your body, including your skin and hair. Radfem analysis: just because you’ve mutilated your genitals or what have you, it doesn’t mean all those cells have miraculously transformed into XX, therefore the FACT remains you are not a woman.

    Fact: Men stalk and threaten women all the time, even online. Radfem analysis: Men are dangerous to women.

    and so on.

  52. @tiptree2

    Young and living in Wash. Dc studying Bus. Admin. and Physics. Learning as much as I can about feminism and who I am in general. I don’t want to give too much details in a public thread like this.


    The land doesn’t have to be an individual solution. It can also be a symbol in the same way parts of cities are claimed for various groups. One of the most powerful thing immigrants do is move to a part of a city and “claim” it as their own. “China Town”, “Little Italy”, etc. in New York and elsewhere. This creates (1) a safe space for people who identify with those groups and (2) serves as a launchpad for other, more ambitious ideas.

    I use San Fransisco because that is one successful example of what I am talking about. There was a huge migration to The Castro District in San Fransisco for people who identified as gay, thus bringing people together who wanted to fight for gay rights. That in turn lead to Harvey Milk, who is to this day the most well known gay rights activist in the US. We can see where gay rights activism is today with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and over 7 states already passing either same-sex marriage or civil union ordinances.

    Now, you contend that men will target womyn for violence, which may be true. I don’t believe that a move to a womyn-identified area would make things easier and would give many womyn a place they can feel belonging to.

    As for the attachment to “patriarchal mindbindings” of womyn, having a physical location won’t change things initially but would get the ball rolling for the long term. Womyn who have a change of heart or are considering would have a physical place to go should they want to distance themselves as much as possible from the patriarchy rather than try to make something work with an environment that might not be conductive for such a transformation. Again, this is what happened to the gay community for many people.

    I don’t see what could get worse.

    Any ways on improving on what I am talking about?

  53. Man tries to kill a woman. Radfem analysis: Said man shouldn’t be teaching feminism.

  54. Well another problem I foresee, is that there are loads of men who “identify as” women. They’re not women, of course, but which man wouldn’t want to live in Amazonia?

  55. @cherryblossomlife

    Hence the area being private and bought. The rules can be clear with who can and who can’t come.

  56. Men, who make the rules, have already ensured that women are not allowed to do that. When women try to exclude men (especially men who think they’re women) from their spaces, they are targeted with violence. But before it even gets to that, we should note that patriarchal governments around the globe have already passed legislations which allow men the right to access women’s spaces.

    In other words, the male-run governments of these lovely patriarchies of ours, support male invasion of female spaces. ANd as Kate Millett points out above, patriarchies have the military and financial means to use force against women whenever they please.

  57. @cherryblossomlife

    So you’re saying that if a group of womyn came together, bought a plot of land and decided to live there that men would force themselves on said land?

  58. well they’ve done it before haven’t they. THe Burning times was all about forcing women off their land.

  59. Hmmmm…. cherryblossom, I agree that radical feminism is “rooted in political analysis and theory”, and that simple withdrawal by a few cannot make for a revolution that is generalized to all. And it seems to me that it is in one’s personal actions that a revolution must start, and grow from there–such as this idea of joining with others of like mind to create womyn’s space and life. And also, any movement that begins with ‘resistance analysis’ such as radical feminism does, must move into ‘creation of another way’, or remain ultimately ineffective….movements must keep moving, out of necessary resistance analysis and into pro-active creation, or they stop.

    I do not say that creation of womyn-only space is THE answer–I certainly do not say that doing such a thing will be free of inherent complexities or external threats…there are no ‘easy answers’ even though, as you rightly say, the evidence of patriarchy is extremely simple. I do say that without daring to imagine or try new things, we are stopped by the very force that we would resist. I also do not say that radfems should eschew political activism–should stop working to get laws changed and just entirely withdraw (nor do I say it’s a wrong choice to eschew activism! just not the only useful choice). I do say that in a real way, focussing exclusively on political activism keeps us focussed both upon resistance, and also focussed upon the mensworld–IMO, therein lies the path to burnout or assimilation (or both).

    Looking straightly at the conditions of life for womyn/children/nature within patriarchy is nothing so much as inspirational of dread. Whatever else your intention may be, I think I hear a whisper of despair in your mentions of womyn’s spaces attracting male violence, and of the Burning Times. Or maybe that is my own despair calling…those realities are never far from my thoughts, constantly hedging my ideas for escape/creation of something new. I know our straight look at patriarchy is necessary, regardless of dread inspired– and that resistance analysis is necessary, too. Yet just as necessary is the guarding of our hope, our fiercely committed nurturance of whatever one may call it–must be guarded somehow from extinguishment by the very dread we must contend with in confronting patriarchy.

    For me, guarding that precious something lies partly in imagining and trying things outside of patriarchy. In my younger days, ‘trying things’ meant smallish things (on the Grand Scale) such as ditching makeup, heels, bras, all the external trappings of patriarchally-prescribed femininity. I thought–I am womyn-born, and womyn will be, regardless of these silly trappings which presume to tell me how to be a womyn! It meant learning how to fix my own car, using various tools, building things–letting myself do things proscribed to womyn. It began to mean even larger things furthering my empowerment and identity as a womyn, such as birthing at home on my own terms, caring for my/children’s health holistically and therefore outside of patriarchy’s male dominated and mechanistic philosophy of the body. While I have certainly engaged in resistance analysis and acts of political resistance in various forms (such as fighting AMA/ACOG hegemony over birth as a midwife via the courts, more than once), it is my pro-active efforts which have tended to feed my hope most deeply, promote my faith that womyn can indeed find ways OUT of patriarchy and into more womyn-nurturing life.

    All of the above is to say, again–I learned, or perhaps chose to learn, from my experiences that while it is necessary for our freedom to begin with resistance analysis that looks straightly at patriarchy’s realities and contends with the dread that evokes, it is also necessary to pro-actively envision a life beyond those confines. I think we must feel our way into that vision, and take experimental steps forward, if we are to go beyond identifying the problem and begin to create a solution that evokes our joy. And while we cannot disregard the potential dangers in dreaming and especially in taking steps, we also cannot let our fear of backlash stop us.

  60. As Robin Morgan said, “To admit suffering is to begin the creation of freedom”

    I think that facing what men do to us (have done to us) head on is the hardest thing any woman has to do. Many women never make it this far and stop at the more palatable (and ineffective) fun feminism which exonerates men and does not examine herstory.

    So admitting what men do, and what they are like *is* creating a new way, by default. How could it not? You can’t un-know what you have learned after reading Gyn/Ecology. How can you ever go back? The only way is forward.

    and yes, you can hear more than a “whisper of despair” HariB; you can hear me shitting myself as I wonder what horrors men will think up next.

  61. HariB, I don’t understand what you mean by pro-active efforts. Are you talking about individual solutions?
    Individual solutions might make you feel better and give you faith, but they don’t change much (anything?)
    Political organization is the only way forward

    and… writing has always been essential to any movement. WHen I lived in Russia, I learned about how, during communism, miniscule books were distributed in secret that you needed a magnifying glass to read. THis was so that if the special police searched you they would not find anything incriminating on your person
    Why was finding a book considered to be such a crime?
    It’s because words are very powerful.

    So I don’t understand what you mean when you imply that nothing is being created when writers write…

  62. Yes. It’s probably best not to give away too much personal info “on a public thread like this.” Like why a college student from dc is so keen on moving to Arizona right in the middle of her studies, for example. I would’ve NEVER done that when I was in school. And as if Arizona doesn’t exist smack dab in the middle of patriarchy.

    And Harvey milk? Srsly? I think someone’s been eating too many twinkies.

  63. FCM– “of course, the attacks only make us stronger. we only become more determined to survive, and to resist and to do this together. because its not anything most men would ever do, they cannot fathom that we would “recoil in horror” or even go within to contemplate all of this, and that we would continue forward in another way while completely ignoring them, but we do….”

    Yeah, absolutely.

    Womyn who do recoil in horror, who go within to contemplate and thus go further and further out of our (patriarchal) minds, who dare to believe that there could possibly be another way forward, are so alien. Untouchable, in more than one sense of the word. I consider that my whole life has been one long struggle to get free of patriarchy. But there is one particular struggle which pushed me more deeply and irrevocably into myself–and completely out of sync with patriarchy: it was a struggle to free myself and last son from his biodad, an abuser/sociopath I let into our lives. It did not take me very long to recognize the monster for what he was and get him the hell out of our home, but because we had started a child this man had legal and social recourse to wreak mayhem in our lives for some years.

    On one hand it was a purely a descent into the kind of emotional/financial/social/legal hell that an abuser is free to impose on womyn/children in patriarchy. My sense of anguished trauma and powerlessness was so huge. On the other hand, it was when my greatest strength and purest sanity was born… dis-covered, re-membered within me. The shattering of my life shattered my last and deepest delusions, ultimately liberating the power that enabled me to drive that monster away.

    I did recoil in horror, even as much as I was outcast by failing to behave like a proper womyn, mother or victim–even by erstwhile friends. I went far inward to contemplate everything for as long as it took. I’ve sought a way forward beyond patriarchy, because now that I see it so clearly I cannot make bargains with that devil any more. This is something that no man I’ve encountered begins to understand in the least. It is even quite difficult for most womyn to grasp. I don’t have any universal answers but I know it is both very personal and very political to go beyond patriarchy.

  64. cherryblossom–I do not say that writers do nothing! As a maker of words, I’m pretty well familiar with the power of words to move people; as a writer/speaker I’ve received much positive feedback on the creative power of my words. I certainly credit others such as yourself, Kate Millet, so many others both published and not, for helping to create movement in people’s lives.

    And, for me words are not enough. Words and ideas can be a trap because words are only *so* creative– not *all* of creation.

    As for politics I have concluded that nothing–not politics, education, medicine, nothing–can work very well on the mass scale that we contend with in a world so highly populated, where government and institutions are so centralized. Tribal civilizations worked very well for a long time, because even the more successful ones (such as the Iroquois 5 nations of the Northeastern US) limited the size of villages. Once population grew to a certain point, some would leave and make new settlements. This culture had a sense of their relationship together as ‘one culture’, and much social and trade contact from village to village–yet each village governed and provided for itself.

    People can do quite well in democratic-socialist arrangements as long as the numbers are low, and as long as basic necessities can be found/handled locally–food, water, other necessities. Governance of thousands of people (or millions) gets overly complex–unweildy, wasteful and increasingly unequal in terms of power as well as wealth/necessities. Bureacracies, duplicity/secrecy, all occurs, IMO, when citizens become estranged from truly participatory leadership and estranged from their sources of food, shelter, etc. So to me, small group efforts are precisely what we need to do politically, to create a different way of living. Small groups are what have worked, throughout human history, for the longest periods of time and the most sustainably in terms of our environment as well.

    Also, doing what preserves one’s faith and otherwise feels good can be among the most revolutionary of actions. Think about it–so much of living in patriarchy entails our agreement to put up with things that feel just terrible–all ‘for the greater good’ or other ideological reasons that meanwhile hurt our bodies, our hearts, our health and sanity. I’m not talking about hedonism or selfishness– emotionally healthy people do have an active sense of ‘us’, not just ‘me’. I have heard this objection before, and I just disagree. Womyn who find it worth their energy to work for political changes for the whole society, via the existing political structure, have my support. I will do what feels right to me, with others of like mind and know that it will have a larger political impact as an example of a different way to live. For me, this is not only about self-preservation and making an example–it is also stepping away from the idea that it’s up to me to save the world and every womyn/child in it.

  65. the “radicalism vs reformism” discussion has been had before in many forums, including this one.

    individual solutions are not the answer (except as individual solutions). and nothing exists outside of patriarchy at the present time. it is desirable to imagine what is beyond it, or what came before it, but everything we do right now is going to be within that context, not outside it. and literally everything that is discussed on any public *or private* forum is going to be a capitulation due to the orwellian surveillance perpetrated on women by the totalitarian regime we are currently living under. aka. MEN, and patriarchy. everyone understands 1984, but the point that a totalitarian regime is real and currently exists globally and has existed globally for a long time WRT women living in patriarchy seems to fly under everyones radar. as usual though, our points are made for us, for anyone who is observant and paying attention. most people, of course, arent.

  66. So, there is nothing to do at all? All we can do is talk about it, and count on enough womyn eventually deciding they’ve had enough–so that finally, unified revolt occurs?

    I would not have survived the last 14yrs if I’d believed that. Because I have some faith at least in the power of my choices as an individual…some days, only to go on taking another breath, and another, instead of the alternative; some days having brilliant (enough) flashes of inspiration to put to action in my life and work. Patriachy is everywhere, yes, and there is not much any individual or small group can do about that. Yet it lives first in each of us as we have assimilated it, and keep on giving it our power. So I definitely do count as meaningful-enough progress the ways I have replaced patriarchal rules/beliefs with something more biophilic within myself, that I can share with the world.

    It may be that there nothing on this Earth more dangerous to womyn than a belief that there is nothing we can do that will be correct enough, or big enough, ‘not-patriarchy’ enough…nothing we can do. Seems to me that it is this belief which keeps womyn and their children dying at the hands of men.

  67. Women’s beliefs aren’t killing women and children. Men are doing that.

  68. Of course men are the ones killing womyn and children–I have not forgotten that.

    And womyn’s belief that there is no alternative to patriarchy, that there is nothing we can do to escape, is what keeps us close enough to men that they can still reach us with murderous intent. It is that belief which paralyzes our will to act in self-preservation. It’s no womyn’s fault that she has that belief–it is taught assiduously at every turn of our lives, and locked in with taboo. But it is not inaccessible, nor unchangeable. To nurture a belief that one can change the conditions of one’s life by acts of self-preservation is not a guarantee of safety…but it definitely moves one in a direction of safety. It can definitely help one choose to move out of the line of fire.

    I am serious–do you, does radfem hub on the whole, bear the belief that there is no action that help move womyn out of patriarchy? That individual actions are only good for individuals, and cannot help the collective in any way? That a serious radfem must not indulge in actions serving herself, her personal faith, but devote herself exclusively to an intellectual frame, perhaps with some political actions, all the while believing that there is no way out?

    These are real questions.

  69. I reject your premise that it is women’s lack of belief in an “alternative to patriarchy” that puts them in close proximity to men. Its women’s belief in heterosexuality perhaps, and also the reality and primacy of fatherhood under patriarchy that keeps us close to men, as well as the reality of the male centric workplace.

    This is not a new discussion, and its not new to the hub. I provided a link to a fantastic discussion, where you can parse out for yourself what individual women stand on this issue.

    The hub has no formal position on anything except what is stated in our info pages.

  70. I see that I stated it too simplistically…and I still think that womyn have the power to free themselves of any/all beliefs that keep them close enough to men to be murdered/raped/possessed. I think womyn (in general) have the power and the smarts to initiate the creation of something besides patriarchy…and I know it’s what I’ve been chipping away at for a long time.

    If you don’t believe this…if any womyn truly sees the situation as hopeless because men own it all, and there is no way to escape their violence…then what is the purpose of being a radical feminist? I mean, why not just be a fun fem or fuckable fem, seeking to be more like a man in patriarchy, with similar rights/pay/status? Again, a serious question–a challenge, yes, but not sarcastic–because it looks to me like those types of feminists are at least finding ways to enjoy patriarchy, and succeed in it, by willingly assimilating themselves and asking for only the most superficial kinds of changes politically and in men’s behavior.

  71. What the hell are you talking about? We might as well just have piv and let men invade our spaces and pretend its not harmful and refuse to speak out about it bc why?

  72. LOL. I think someone just called radical feminists bitter, and suggested we have more fun. In a sideways kind of way. Nice.


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