Maybe we all feel isolated?

September 23, 2008

Charlie Little is calling for a radical feminist gathering up north, because she feels that radical lesbian feminists are underrepresented in present feminist politics.  She specifically mentions FAF as being a “queer feminist group” and also that socialist feminists are active (which I assume means Feminist Fightback), but that there aren’t any visibly active radical feminists anymore.  She also wants an “unapologetically women-only space”, which means no transwomen.

 What I feel is fascinating about this is that it completely mirrors my own feelings.  As you can see from this post, I feel like radical and liberal feminists dominate the feminist movement in the UK.  Activism seems to focus on all anti-porn all the time.  The only feminist group where I live for a long time was a radical feminist group, the members of which made it pretty clear they considered me misguided at best, and a sellout to the patriarchy at worst.  The two biggest feminist events of the year are Reclaim The Night and the FEM conferences.  RTN is very much a radical feminist event – not too friendly towards transwomen, and don’t even TRY discussing the way rape is a weapon of war, or whether it should accept an endorsement by the police.  As for the FEM conferences – I walked out of the first one after someone suggested that, actually, feminists shouldn’t concern themselves with racism.  Subsequent conferences have been better – actual women of colour spoke!! – but it’s still overwhelmingly a radical/liberal feminist conference.  Combined with the sectarianism of some radical feminists – Object won’t attend ANY event organised by Feminist Fightback, including events completely unrelated to pornography, like protests about immigration detention centres – I feel like socialist feminists are the ones who are underrepresented and isolated.

That’s part of my undying devotion to Feminist Fightback, incidentally.  I went to the first conference, where people weren’t convinced that censorship was a good idea, and they had speakers from No One Is Illegal, and when I schlepped down to London for a subsequent meeting they took me out to the pub afterwards.  It was worth the trip to London every couple of months just for the feeling of community that I had been missing (that’s not to say that FemFight is above criticism).

Now, I’m not saying Charlie’s wrong.  I’m saying that it’s interesting that every group of feminists basically feels like an isolated, marginalised community.  Why is that?

Part of it might be geographic location.  It could be that where I am radical feminism dominates and where Charlie is there’s more socialist feminism.  It could be issues of definition – what I think of as radical feminism may be different than Charlie’s definition, so I see radical feminism everywhere and she sees it no where.  It could also be that everyone (or at least, me) thinks that everyone else should agree with them (‘cause, I’m right about everything), so the people who don’t loom larger than the people who do.  In my case, it’s also a culture shock thing – in the feminist circles in which I travelled in Toronto, intersectionality was the watchword, and transwomen were welcomed without question.  So, I was pretty surprised when I got to the UK, and that might make it seem like radical feminism has more influence than it does.

It could also be the “cachet of victimhood”, which is something I want to write a post about, but basically – standpoint politics, which is a very good idea, is sometimes misinterpreted as saying that whoever is the “most oppressed” (and yes, the post will deal with the ridiculousness of that concept) must be right.  Therefore, whichever strand of feminism is the most isolated must be the most awesome strand of feminism!!  So everyone begins thinking of themselves as isolated crusaders, bravely challenging an uncaring feminist hegemony.

While I disagree pretty strongly with some of Charlie’s politics, I know from personal experience that feeling like you have no feminist community sucks.  So best of luck to her in organising her event.

Just please – next time Feminist Fightback is supporting striking workers, or protesting immigration controls, can we have your support?  We swear that protesting against detention centres will not lead to an increase in pornography.

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4 Responses to “Maybe we all feel isolated?”

  1. Debs Says:

    At RTN last year, when I was still with the Object folks before the march set off, someone came round handing out leaflets for something Feminist Fightback were organising – I took one but two of the women I was “with” were falling over themselves to tell me I should give FF a wide berth as they were all “yay, porn!” They really turned their noses up. I didn’t really think much about it at the time but reading this has just reminded me.

    Anyway, yeah, great title – I think we do all feel isolated. I have no idea what the answer is to that, but I’m pretty sure that us all staying in our own camps and not speaking to women who disagree with us on some things is ever going to help the situation.

  2. Gwen Says:

    ” I’m pretty sure that us all staying in our own camps and not speaking to women who disagree with us on some things is ever going to help the situation.”

    Precisely – and I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. Radical feminist blogs just make me angry for the most part, so I don’t read them. And I don’t want to slag off other women on my blog, so I just pretend they don’t exist. Which is clearly not a mature attitude.

    For the record – most people in Feminist Fightback actually do think mainstream porn is really sexist (though there’s a diversity of opinion within the group on that issue, as with many issues). We’re just don’t think censorship is ever a good idea.

  3. Zenobia Says:

    I tend to be very attracted to radical feminism for some things, I mean I feel very aligned with early radical feminism, before the porn stuff, but I think it was completely different then, and much closer to socialist feminism.

    Then again, as much as there are things about it that I find really great, the things about radical feminism that I don’t like tend to repulse me pretty strongly. It’s like, I can’t see myself telling the transwomen who I know read my blog (or even in good conscience thinking to myself) “right, I agree with these women on certain really important things so I’m going to overlook the fact that they think transwomen are deluded and don’t exist – sorry!”.

    On the other hand, I can see if you lived in the North of England why you’d be very concerned about lapdancing and porn, and I would rather a few women protesting those on a local level than mainstream liberal feminism, and there are things about sex-positive feminism that really bug me too (mainly the libertarianism).

    Then again, sometimes I feel I have so little in common with either of these positions that I don’t see why we should even call ourselves the same thing. I mean, the important part is surely what you want to achieve, and if we all want to achieve completely different things – what’s the point? Maybe that’s another factor that makes us feel isolated as well, the fact that we all call ourselves feminists, but we have very little in common.

    And anyway, the whole ‘categories of feminism’ approach is kind of misleading. That’s why I tend to think it’s better to work on a mutual trust basis, by building good working relations with people who have common objectives, I was going to say ‘whatever your type of feminism’, but even that becomes irrelevant – it’s not what you are, it’s what you do.

    That said, I think that’s what we had in mind with Mind the Gap, and it didn’t serve us too well.


  4. […] a comment » I mentioned Gwen’s post on isolation earlier, about how we often feel isolated from other feminists, and feel we’re the only one of our […]

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