The Woman Identified Woman

(h/t bugbrennan) What is a lesbian? A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion. She is the woman who, often beginning at an extremely early age, acts in accordance with her inner compulsion to be a more complete and freer human being than her society—perhaps then, but certainly later—cares to allow her. These needs and actions, over a period of years, bring her into painful conflict with people, situations, the accepted ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, until she is in a state of continual war with everything around her, and usually with herself.

She may not be fully conscious of the political implications of what for her began as personal necessity, but on some level she has not been able to accept the limitations and oppression laid on her by the most basic role of her society—the female role.

The turmoil she experiences tends to induce guilt proportional to the degree to which she feels she is not meeting social expectations, and/or eventually drives her to question and analyze what the rest of her society more or less accepts. She is forced to evolve her own life pattern, often living much of her life alone, learning usually much earlier than her “straight” (heterosexual) sisters about the essential alone-ness of life (which the myth of marriage obscures) and about the reality of illusions. To the extent that she cannot expel the heavy socialization that goes with being female, she can never truly find peace with herself. For she is caught somewhere between accepting society’s view of her—in which case she cannot accept herself—and coming to understand what this sexist society has done to her and why it is functional and necessary for it to do so.

Those of us who work that through find ourselves on the other side of a tortuous journey through a night that may have been decades long. The perspective gained from that journey, the liberation of self, the inner peace, the real love of self and of all women, is something to be shared with all women—because we are all women.

It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy. Those sex roles dehumanize women by defining us as a supportive/serving caste in relation to the master caste of men, and emotionally cripple men by demanding that they be alienated from their own bodies and emotions in order to perform their economic/political/military functions effectively.

Homosexuality is a by-product of a particular way of setting up roles ( or approved patterns of behavior) on the basis of sex; as such it is an inauthentic (not consonant with “reality”) category. In a society in which men do not oppress women, and sexual expression is allowed to follow feelings, the categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality would disappear.

But lesbianism is also different from male homosexuality, and serves a different function in the society. “Dyke” is a different kind of put-down from “faggot”, although both imply you are not playing your socially assigned sex role—are not therefore a “real woman” or a “real man. ” The grudging admiration felt for the tomboy, and the queasiness felt around a sissy boy point to the same thing: the contempt in which women—or those who play a female role—are held. And the investment in keeping women in that contemptuous role is very great.

Lesbian is a word, the label, the condition that holds women in line. When a woman hears this word tossed her way, she knows she is stepping out of line. She knows that she has crossed the terrible boundary of her sex role. She recoils, she protests, she reshapes her actions to gain approval. Lesbian is a label invented by the Man to throw at any woman who dares to be his equal, who dares to challenge his prerogatives (including that of all women as part of the exchange medium among men), who dares to assert the primacy of her own needs.

To have the label applied to people active in women’s liberation is just the most recent instance of a long history; older women will recall that not so long ago, any woman who was successful, independent, not orienting her whole life about a man, would hear this word. For in this sexist society, for a woman to be independent means she can’t be a woman—she must be a dyke. That in itself should tell us where women are at. It says as clearly as can be said: women and person are contradictory terms. For a lesbian is not considered a “real woman.”

And yet, in popular thinking, there is really only one essential difference between a lesbian and other women: that of sexual orientation—which is to say, when you strip off all the packaging, you must finally realize that the essence of being a “woman” is to get fucked by men. “Lesbian” is one of the sexual categories by which men have divided up humanity. While all women are dehumanized as sex objects, as the objects of men they are given certain compensations: identification with his power, his ego, his status, his protection (from other males), feeling like a “real woman,” finding social acceptance by adhering to her role, etc.

Should a woman confront herself by confronting another woman, there are fewer rationalizations, fewer buffers by which to avoid the stark horror of her dehumanized condition. Herein we find the overriding fear of many women toward being used as a sexual object by a woman, which not only will bring her no male-connected compensations, but also will reveal the void which is woman’s real situation.

This dehumanization is expressed when a straight woman learns that a sister is a lesbian; she begins to relate to her lesbian sister as her potential sex object, laying a surrogate male role on the lesbian. This reveals her heterosexual conditioning to make herself into an object when sex is potentially involved in a relationship, and it denies the lesbian her full humanity. For women, especially those in the movement, to perceive their lesbian sisters through this male grid of role definitions is to accept this male cultural conditioning and to oppress their sisters much as they themselves have been oppressed by men.

Are we going to continue the male classification system of defining all females in sexual relation to some other category of people? Affixing the label lesbian not only to a woman who aspires to be a person, but also to any situation of real love, real solidarity, real primacy among women, is a primary form of divisiveness among women: it is the condition which keeps women within the confines of the feminine role, and it is the debunking/scare term that keeps women from forming any primary attachments, groups, or associations among ourselves.

Women in the movement have in most cases gone to great lengths to avoid discussion and confrontation with the issue of lesbianism. It puts people up-tight. They are hostile, evasive, or try to incorporate it into some “broader issue.” They would rather not talk about it. If they have to, they try to dismiss it as a “lavender herring.” But it is no side issue. It is absolutely essential to the success and fulfillment of the women’s liberation movement that this issue be dealt with.

As long as the label “dyke” can be used to frighten women into a less militant stand, keep her separate from her sisters, keep her from giving primacy to anything other than men and family—then to that extent she is controlled by the male culture. Until women see in each other the possibility of a primal commitment which includes sexual love, they will be denying themselves the love and value they readily accord to men, thus affirming their second-class status.

As long as male acceptability is primary—both to individual women and to the movement as a whole—the term lesbian will be used effectively against women. Insofar as women want only more privileges within the system, they do not want to antagonize male power. They instead seek acceptability for women’s liberation, and the most crucial aspect of the acceptability is to deny lesbianism—i. e., to deny any fundamental challenge to the basis of the female.

It should also be said that some younger, more radical women have honestly begun to discuss lesbianism, but so far it has been primarily as a sexual “alternative” to men. This, however, is still giving primacy to men, both because the idea of relating more completely to women occurs as a negative reaction to men, and because the lesbian relationship is being characterized simply by sex, which is divisive and sexist.

On one level, which is both personal and political, women may withdraw emotional and sexual energies from men, and work out various alternatives for those energies in their own lives. On a different political/psychological level, it must be understood that what is crucial is that women begin disengaging from male-defined response patterns. In the privacy of our own psyches, we must cut those cords to the core. For irrespective of where our love and sexual energies flow, if we are male-identified in our heads, we cannot realize our autonomy as human beings.

But why is it that women have related to and through men? By virtue of having been brought up in a male society, we have internalized the male culture’s definition of ourselves. That definition consigns us to sexual and family functions, and excludes us from defining and shaping the terms of our lives. In exchange for our psychic servicing and for performing society’s non-profit-making functions, the man confers on us just one thing: the slave status which makes us legitimate in the eyes of the society in which we live.

This is called “femininity” or “being a real woman” in our cultural lingo. We are authentic, legitimate, real to the extent that we are the property of some man whose name we bear. To be a woman who belongs to no man is to be invisible, pathetic, inauthentic, unreal. He confirms his image of us—of what we have to be in order to be acceptable by him—but not our real selves; he confirms our womanhood—as he defines it, in relation to him—but cannot confirm our personhood, our own selves as absolutes.

As long as we are dependent on the male culture for this definition, for this approval, we cannot be free. The consequence of internalizing this role is an enormous reservoir of self-hate. This is not to say the self-hate is recognized or accepted as such; indeed most women would deny it. It may be experienced as discomfort with her role, as feeling empty, as numbness, as restlessness, as a paralyzing anxiety at the center.

Alternatively, it may be expressed in shrill defensiveness of the glory and destiny of her role. But it does exist, often beneath the edge of her consciousness, poisoning her existence, keeping her alienated from herself, her own needs, and rendering her a stranger to other women. They try to escape by identifying with the oppressor, living through him, gaining status and identity from his ego, his power, his accomplishments. And by not identifying with other “empty vessels” like themselves.

Women resist relating on all levels to other women who will reflect their own oppression, their own secondary status, their own self-hate. For to confront another woman is finally to confront one’s self—the self we have gone to such lengths to avoid. And in that mirror we know we cannot really respect and love that which we have been made to be.

As the source of self-hate and the lack of real self are rooted in our male-given identity, we must create a new sense of self. As long as we cling to the idea of “being a woman,” we will sense some conflict with that incipient self, that sense of I, that sense of a whole person. It is very difficult to realize and accept that being “feminine” and being a whole person are irreconcilable.

Only women can give to each other a new sense of self. That identity we have to develop with reference to ourselves, and not in relation to men. This consciousness is the revolutionary force from which all else will follow, for ours is an organic revolution. For this we must be available and supportive to one another, give our commitment and our love, give the emotional support necessary to sustain this movement.

Our energies must flow toward our sisters, not backward toward our oppressors. As long as woman’s liberation tries to free women without facing the basic heterosexual structure that binds us in one-to-one relationship with our oppressors, tremendous energies will continue to flow into trying to straighten up each particular relationship with a man, into finding how to get better sex, how to turn his head around—into trying to make the “new man” out of him, in the delusion that this will allow us to be the “new woman. ” This obviously splits our energies and commitments, leaving us unable to be committed to the construction of the new patterns which will liberate us.

It is the primacy of women relating to women, of women creating a new consciousness of and with each other, which is at the heart of women’s liberation, and the basis for the cultural revolution. Together we must find, reinforce, and validate our authentic selves. As we do this, we confirm in each other that struggling, incipient sense of pride and strength, the divisive barriers begin to melt, we feel this growing solidarity with our sisters. We see ourselves as prime, find our centers inside of ourselves. We find receding the sense of alienation, of being cut off, of being behind a locked window, of being unable to get out what we know is inside. We feel a realness, feel at last we are coinciding with ourselves.

With that real self, with that consciousness, we begin a revolution to end the imposition of all coercive identifications, and to achieve maximum autonomy in human expression.

Copyright ©1970 by Radicalesbians. All rights reserved.

reposted from here


Female bodies are not public accommodations

Gandhi, the “Great Soul” who blamed women for violence inflicted upon them by men, once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Many women have taken this trite advice to heart, much to their own detriment.

Do you wish for the world to be more supportive of women? Then you need to be more supportive of women, especially marginalized women, especially women who were born male, who are the most marginalized women of all. If you can’t do this, you have no one but yourself to blame for the way the world is, sister.

This is how it goes. Every maxim uttered by a man can and will be used against women — used to guilt-trip women into sacrificing themselves for the sake of “others,” and “others” always means the priorities of men.

Women, please remember: When you read so-called wise words from wise men, understand that these words were not spoken for your benefit. Gandhi had no interest in helping women. You’re just a puppet of male shame and male self-loathing to Gandhi.

Your welfare didn’t matter to Buddha, either. Buddha didn’t even want you in his religious order, not even to exploit your labor. He included you only at the urging of his aunt, only grudgingly, condemning you to be a second-class practitioner of his teachings, forever unable to attain enlightenment unless you were reborn in a male body. Buddha thought it best that women always be subordinate to males, even if the males were little boy monks. So don’t kid yourself that Buddha had anything valuable to say about women’s liberation.

Jesus? Maybe Jesus was a nice guy, but his disciples were openly dismissive of women, and they systematically wrote women out of every substantive role in the story of life, except for the role of villain — temptress, whore, ruiner of mankind. Mary the Virgin Mother was added to Christianity, centuries after Jesus was gone, to balance out the lady-shaming with a heavy dose of lady-idealizing, setting up the no-win, ever-punitive virgin-whore dichotomy.

Do unto others as you would have done unto you, ladies. Jesus’s golden rule is intended especially for women. It means “treat male priorities as if they are your own, because they should be.” Men aren’t seriously expected to interpret this saying to mean “treat women and children the way you as a man wish to be treated.” On the contrary, it means to treat other men as you as a man wish to be treated. The treatment of women and children doesn’t even enter into consideration.

Christianity teaches that women aren’t people so much as problems and blessings, alternately, for men. So, women, please stop fooling yourselves that the “kingdom of heaven” is a place where you can be anything but a subordinate. And stop fooling yourselves that there’s anything transcendent or glorious about your subordination. It’s just ugly, petty sadomasochism masquerading as divine love.

What about atheists, then? I think of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the female leader of the American atheist movement. Much as I may hope to view O’Hair as a fighter of a good fight for the civil rights of non-believers, a fighter against dogma detrimental to women, I can’t ignore that she was a dedicated supporter of pornographer Larry Flynt. There’s no propaganda machine more viciously, dogmatically anti-woman than pornography.

Atheism presumes that humans are sophisticated primates who naturally exercise enlightened self-interest. We are reasonable animals. We’d all be peaceful and happy if it weren’t for pious superstition messing up everything. If not for religious “morality,” we’d all be living in a Paleolithic paradise where men are men, and women are breeders and servants of men.

Maybe we would have a very different world if men took to heart and translated into action the so-called wise words uttered by so-called wise men. But we don’t. Men nod their heads sagely at messages of kindness, compassion, mutual responsibility, turning the other cheek, and humility. But they know that these messages are not for them, not seriously. Rather, these messages are meant to placate, justify, and perpetuate an underclass of female eunuchs.

Point is, the only -ism that has ever been specifically concerned about the liberation and ongoing welfare of females is feminism.

Now, look at what has happened to feminism. Just as female bodies have been co-opted, objectified, denied, mutilated, beaten, plundered, pimped, and misrepresented to cater to male dominance, so has feminism.

This is pretty much always true: if the word “feminist” is appended to another word that pertains to an iteration of a patriarchal belief system, it’s bad. You don’t want it. The words combined indicate that feminism is being robbed of its power. It’s being used against women. Try it.

Feminist Christianity: A great way to confine and neutralize the ladies within a patriarchal belief system so they can pose no real threat to it.

Feminist pornography: A great way to get the ladies to support and rationalize the exploitation and degradation of female erotic power.

Feminist male: A great way to center maleness while assuming that a huge favor is being done on behalf of the ladies.

Why does everyone seem to insist that feminism must accommodate all beliefs and values, even beliefs and values that are harmful to women? Prostitution is not feminist. Pimping is not feminist. Men claiming to be women is not feminist. How can anyone credibly claim otherwise?

Why? Because feminism means women, and everyone knows that women are expected to be accommodating. I’ll go farther and say that all rules of public accommodation are presumed to apply to women.

For example, women and their bodies are presumed to be facilities available for public use. Because female bodies can gestate babies, the state regulates female bodies more fanatically than, say, the water supplies of major metropolitan areas. The state is more concerned about whether a woman consumes drugs or alcohol while pregnant than it cares about poison consumed by millions of people each day from the municipal water tap. These are the values of patriarchy.

Many people presume that women, as public accommodations, must abide by anti-discrimination laws. Hence, we see this kind of thinking: Women should not be free to refuse sexual access to anyone, because this constitutes discrimination! How dare she refuse to sleep with white men, or brown men, or married men, or any men? How dare she deny access? She won’t even socialize with transwomen. This is a civil rights violation, isn’t it? Women who refuse to accommodate all men, all the time, are bigots and are probably breaking the law.

Similarly, in all the hullaballoo about who belongs in which public bathroom, the women’s bathroom is presumed to be the one that must accommodate all who choose to use it. Somehow, it’s transphobic to suggest that unisex or trans bathroom spaces be designated or added. No! This is bigotry! The only solution to this “problem” is for women to surrender their boundaries and sense of safety to accommodate whoever the hell wants to walk into the ladies’ loo. Women have no right to say no because women have never had a right to say no. Such is the circular logic of patriarchy.

You know what Gandhi never said, and Buddha never taught, and Jesus never spaketh? This: Female bodies are not public accommodations. Women do not exist to serve men. Women have rights and boundaries. Women can and do say no to men, and this is not a crime.

All these Great Male Souls with all their timeless, profound insight. Feminism never occurred to a single one of them. Who benefited?

New & improved reactionaries

A common misperception is that transgenderism somehow confronts and dismantles sex-based oppression. But when you really look at the claims of transgenderism, you see how reactionary it is. While feminism names male violence as the primary force of all human oppression, transgenderism denies it. Transgenderism presumes, rather, that male and female are arbitrary distinctions; therefore, it is impossible to quantify and qualify the specifics of male violence. Not even right-wing religious zealots have done more to obfuscate reality. The new-and-improved right wing queers the gender binary!

This video is a roundtable mashup featuring Sarah Ditum, Terry Keane, CN Lester, Sheila Jeffreys, Julie Bindel, and Bernie Siegel. The “genders” may change, but the anti-feminist arguments remain the same. A feminist will say, “Male violence is the problem.” An anti-feminist will deny or minimize male violence. Feminists challenge sexism; reactionaries make excuses for it. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Trigger Warning: Julie Bindel

Julie Bindel’s opening remarks at a panel discussion hosted by the Manchester Free Speech Association at the University of Manchester on December 9, 2015. I cropped this clip from original youtube video to cut the rude knitter out of frame.

Quotable quote from Julie Bindel:

There are many, many different ways of being a feminist. Most of them are wrong. The one that is right is the feminism that annoys men. It doesn’t alienate men. It doesn’t upset men — if you’re decent men. But it does annoy you a little bit like good, anti-racist, white people in South Africa living under the apartheid regime were annoyed when they lost their black servants that they treated really well. Because it annoys men — proper feminism — the feminism that I subscribe to and have done since 1979 — because it means they have to give up some of their privilege.

Now these modern feminists — the “choice” feminists — the fun feminists — the ones who don’t want to upset men — they go around slut-marching and getting their Tits Out for Trafficking, and God knows what else. Men love it. Men love this kind of pro-pornography, pro-sex-work, pro-wearing-the-veil, pro-anything that actually means that men keep their power. And that is why…these modern feminists…do not like me, and call me whorephobic, transphobic, bi-phobic, polyamory-phobic, islamophobic, every other phobia that you can imagine. Because they are reactionaries. They are the new right wing.

The stunning homophobia of gender identity

It’s hard to believe that things have gotten so bad for the cause of sexual equality. I mean, so-called LGBT organizations now enthusiastically promote homophobic initiatives that erase gay, lesbian, and nonconformist children by identifying them as transgender, effectively “curing” them of nonconformity with hormones and surgery.

What’s more, these organizations seek to codify into law the concept of “gender identity,” which rejects the reality of human sexual dimorphism. Everything that the gay rights movement has fought for — confronting homophobia, breaking the grip of compulsory heterosexuality, and protecting people from sexual-orientation discrimination — is jeopardized by this unquestioning embrace of “gender identity.”

Truth is, “gender identity” is the trendy new term for same-old homophobia.

keep your gender identity off my bodyI was thumbing through Suzanne Pharr’s book Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism just trying to remember what the gay lib movement cared about before it drank Gender Kool-Aid. Pharr defines homophobia as “the irrational fear and hatred of those who love and sexually desire those of the same sex.” Early in the book, Pharr recounts discussion groups in which women imagine what the world would be like if homophobia were to disappear:

  • Kids won’t be called tomboys or sissies; they’ll just be who they are, able to do what they wish.
  • People will be able to love anyone, no matter what sex; the issue will simply be whether or not she/he is a good human being, compatible, and loving.
  • Affection will be opened up between women and men, women and women, men and men, and it won’t be centered on sex; people won’t fear being called names if they show affection to someone who isn’t a mate or potential mate.
  • If affection is opened up, then isolation will be broken down for all of us, especially for those who generally experience little physical affection, such as unmarried old people.
  • Women will be able to work whatever jobs we want without being labeled masculine.
  • There will be less violence if men do not feel they have to prove and assert their manhood. Their desire to dominate and control will not spill over from the personal to the level of national and international politics and the use of bigger and better weapons to control other countries.
  • People will wear whatever clothes they wish, with the priority being comfort rather than the display of femininity or masculinity.
  • There will be no gender roles.

Pharr continues:

It is at this point in the workshops having imagined a world without homophobia that the participants see the analysis begin to fall into place. Someone notes that all the things we have been talking about relate to sexual gender roles. It’s rather like the beginning of a course in Sexism 101. The next question is “Imagine the world with no sex roles — sexual identity, which may be in flux, but no sexual gender roles.”

Further: imagine a world in which opportunity is not determined by gender or race. Just the imagining makes women alive with excitement because it is a vision of freedom, often just glimpsed but always known deep down as truth. Pure joy.

We talk about what it would be like to be born in a world in which there were no expectations or treatment based on gender but instead only the expectation that each child, no matter what race or sex, would be given as many options and possibilities as society could muster. Then we discuss what girls and boys would be like at puberty and beyond if sex role expectations didn’t come crashing down on them with girls’ achievement levels beginning to decline thereafter; what it would be for women to have the training and options for economic equity with men; what would happen to issues of power and control, and therefore violence, if there were real equality. To have no prescribed sex roles would open the possibility of equality. It is a discussion women find difficult to leave. Freedom calls.

Ah, yes. Reading this is like being a stranger in a strange land and suddenly hearing my native language spoken in a welcoming voice. This is what the human liberation movement used to sound like before transmania. Yes! Imagine a world without homophobia! (Spoiler: It’s a world without gender identity.)

Imagining a world centered on gender identity isn’t hard because it’s the world we’re living in:

  • Kids who might be called tomboys or sissies are not allowed to be who they are and do what they wish; rather, they are encouraged and even pressured to see themselves as born in the wrong body and to take puberty-blocking drugs.
  • Does gender identity encourage loving relationships? In my experience, promoters of gender identity are more concerned with browbeating lesbians into sexually servicing men who claim to be women, for instance, and shaming gay men for not sleeping with transmen. It’s about control, not love.
  • Instead of opening up the expression of affection among people, gender identity and its values of oppositional, defiant individualism have enabled and justified soaring narcissism. When was the last time you heard gender-identity advocates speak of human affection? Never. It’s all about demanding that everyone respect the self-defined self-image of trans people.
  • Does celebration of gender identity erode individual isolation? I think it intensifies isolation and alienation by claiming that people’s bodies are wrong. Wrong body? How can you recover from a sweeping, damning pronouncement like that? Gender ideology stokes discontent and petty grievances by telling people that they are oppressed by, for example, other people calling them “sir” or “ma’am” contrary to their own self-perception. Or claiming that penises can be female sex organs. These disingenuous assertions don’t bring people together in community, they alienate people.
  • Are women able to work whatever jobs we want without being labeled masculine? Women labeled masculine for any reason are presumed to be not really women. It means our brains are somehow male in whole or in part.
  • Is there less violence because men do not feel they have to prove and assert their manhood? On the contrary, male violence has been elevated to a cherished characteristic of gender identity. Transmen model their behavior to mimic male dominance. And while transwomen enact a pantomime of female subservience, some also assert their manhood by invading lesbian spaces and calling for the rape and murder of radical feminists. So much for sexual equality.
  • Can people wear whatever clothes they wish, with the priority being comfort rather than the display of femininity or masculinity? No. Choice of clothing is regarded as one of the most significant expressions of gender identity. Your clothes tell the world what your gender identity is.

revoltingIn a world without homophobia, there are no gender roles. But, clearly, gender roles are the lifeblood of gender identity. Simply: If we’re in favor of abolishing homophobia, we need to stop promoting gender identity. At the very least.